This past week staff and volunteers at my service site began building relationships by sharing our personal stories that explain our journey to the organization. Below is the story I shared about myself.
I come from a low income background, and I am a first generation college student. My mom attended community college, but finances prevented her from completing her degree. Although she didn’t finish college, she set a high academic standard for me early on and instilled in me the belief that I would go to college. I am the oldest among my siblings, and unfortunately this same academic standard was not set from my younger siblings.
In middle school and throughout high school I was tracked for college. A teacher once told my advanced class that my school prepares some students for college while preparing others to enter directly into the workforce. This statement shocked me.
In high school I was motivated to take advantage of all the college prep programs I could get my hands on. I was lucky to have a college readiness program piloted with my high school graduation class. This program began the conversation about college and connected me with other students who shared similar goals. I also was able to spend two summers on a college campus and interact with college undergraduates. Another program helped me navigate the FAFSA and the college application process. I even decided to take an ACT Prep class, which required me to get to school an hour before normally scheduled classes began. As a result of these programs, I felt confident and prepared when applying to colleges during my senior year.
Because of these programs, I was able to navigate the road to and access college. They helped me connect with like minded people who also aspired to go to college and meet people who could act as mentors and help me achieve my goal. In addition, they helped me learn about my options in regards to types of colleges and programs. In regards to finances, these programs helped me navigate the FAFSA and access scholarships/plan how to pay for school.
Although these programs helped me a great deal, they did not help me reach my fullest potential. Prior to going college, I knew little about social identities, privilege, and bias. As a college freshman, I came from a different racial and socioeconomic background from many of my peers. Biased comments and incidents were common on my campus. When a biased comment was directed toward me, I didn’t know how to respond. Regretfully, I let this incident negatively affect me for the remainder of my undergraduate career. I was unprepared to deal with issues that revolved around social identities, diversity and inclusion.
My challenge was navigating and accessing higher education. My choice was to take advantage of as many college readiness programs as I could. All of the programs I took advantage of focused on getting me to college rather than “to and thru” college. The outcome was that I was a great candidate and got into college, but I struggled to create goals that extended past college. College should have been was a goal within a larger vision. The most important thing that I learned is that a vision is most important than a goal.
From my experience with these programs I learned that I could not access college alone. I would not have been able to navigate avenues such as the FAFSA, been aware of scholarships, or strategies when applying to schools without their help.
I chose to serve at this particular organization because it supports idea of setting a vision before setting a goal. A goal is only one component of a larger vision. Without a vision, a person’s fullest potential cannot be reached. The organization I am now serving with helps students set visions for their futures and supports them in realizing these visions.