As a Youth Leader it was really important to me that I helped other students become first-gen to college because I am one too. I helped them find post-secondary options that they did not know were open to them.
One student that I helped didn’t care too much about school when I first met him. He was very nonchalant. When I first approached him when he was a junior to come to a workshop I was running about SAT day, he wasn’t too interested in college. His senior year the Student Success Center got an SAT prep class and I encouraged him to come. He came to the first session and I saw a shift in his mindset. He saw other people doing it – and then started attending every workshop we offered: resume development, learning about CUNY, exploring careers, everything. He even came on the college trips we planned. He didn’t have anyone in his life who went to college and so not being exposed to it he wasn’t thinking about it – but then when the SSC exposed him he dedicated himself. I helped him with Common App, financial aid, FAFSA, a career interest survey. He is now at SUNY Oneonta.
One thing we stressed as an SSC that our school lacked was early awareness. When I was a freshman we never talked about college; we just talked about sophomore year. That has totally shifted at the Mott Haven campus. We have freshmen doing research on college early on. Sophomores and juniors are doing personal statements. We notice more students going away to college. We push them to not limit themselves – but also to take advantage of all the CUNY system has to offer.
As a Youth Leader you deal with an abundance of students. You deal with people who work at a faster pace and others that require more time. That has taught me life skills – being sympathetic and mature and balancing many things in life. The SSC helped prepare me for college. It also helped me with public speaking – running all of those workshops and getting people’s attention. It helped me to communicate in a more professional workspace and to represent myself well. It helped prepare me for The Ellen Show which I got on because my supervisor wrote into the show about me!
Check out this clip of Angel on The Ellen Show: Ellen’s Surprise for Aspiring Teen Report Brings Him to Tears