At the end of January, I began my assignment as an AmeriCorps Reservist College Mentor 2012 at the American High School in Hialeah, Florida. My responsibilities include advising the seniors on the activities they need to do in order to gain entrance into college, while completing their last year of high school. That has proven to be a major task for many so I find myself being a cheerleader and an encourager while guiding them through the admissions application, essay writing, college selection, resume development, FAFSA application process and scholarship searches.
Although I speak about the challenges and opportunities in a few classes, I work with most students individually as they come into the Media Center. As a first generation college student, I can relate to those who wonder if they can even gain admission and how they will pay for it. For some, their fear of not being able to attend college is escalated by their parents not understanding the process or in some cases the English language. This has resulted in some parents refusing to provide personal financial information because it was just that, personal.
There are also some students who live with another person who may or may not have court ordered guardianship. Over time, parents and students find they can trust me and the information I provide to them. I honor and balance the parents’ wishes with that of the seniors. Sometimes it means explaining to the student concerns a parent might have, so that they can view their situation from a different perspective. Also I communicate with the parents directly, in person and by telephone, explaining the process, cost of getting into college, the advantages and disadvantages of living on campus, and much more.
My job is to assist with all college related things that could aid the student in fulfilling the family dream of a better education and leading to a better life. I have learned how close certain cultural groups are and their desire to keep their children close to home. The vernacular and behavior of teenagers was one of the areas that I prayed I could handle, for it had been a long time since I worked with a young age group in a secular setting. How would I handle distasteful language and trends in fashion and personal appearance that I find to be inappropriate?
I was pleased to discover that American runs a tight ship and certain behaviors are not tolerated. There is decorum and the students wear uniforms. I also have become aware of my own attitudes and tried to see things in a proper perspective, to place proper value, to not overreact, to address the students the way that I wanted to be approached; to greet them and try to remember their names, to address privately situations that get out of hand. I keep my goal of assisting them in mind and remember what it was like when I was in my final year of high school. That was many, many years ago.
Based on comments from the CAP [College Assistance Program] team, administrators and students, believe that I am successful in this role and look forward to next year.
Vivian has spent many years in the area of career planning, life coaching and job placement at the University of Miami. While there, she participated in the planning and preparation of marketing and recruitment programs. She also conducted seminars in financial aid, admissions and scholarships. She has served as a liaison to businesses and the Chamber of Commerce. She has also volunteered with the Joshua 1:8 College and Career Prep Ministry where she helped to prepare students for their college admissions. Vivian joined ReServe Miami via Catalyst Miami in November. To commemorate Older Americans Month, ReServe invited ReServists to write original essays about their current or past assignment. This is one of twelve essays. – ED