On Graduation

If you’ve never been to a CCNY graduation, you should come.

All graduations are joyous events; all graduations affect transitions between years of preparation and a world rife with new possibilities.  And, I’ll admit that it’s been years since I’ve attended a graduation that did not take place on a CUNY campus—but I still think our graduations are different.

I think they’re different because they’re filled with young people rewriting their entire family history.  When you wander around after a Colin Powell School graduation ceremony, you’re surrounded by parents who’ve sent sons and daughters into a world they didn’t understand and couldn’t explain to their children.  For many it may feel like a huge gamble: will their children grow unfamiliar to them, alienated from home and culture? Will the embrace of an education build walls, or create ladders? Will a child’s opportunity be a family’s loss? Despite the risks and doubts, or perhaps because of them, students and families arrive at graduation day as to a new continent they never thought they’d reach.  The air is spiced with their joy.

Continue reading “On Graduation”

Preserving and Strengthening Access

Today, however, the pathway faces challenges at both the point that students enter college and after they graduate. States have slashed support for their colleges and universities, forcing them to raise tuition to unaffordable levels. New graduates often have to take unpaid internships to gain entry to their chosen fields. That’s a huge barrier for those who need to work to support themselves and pay off student loans.

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by Lisa S. Coico, president of the City College of New York (excerpted from the Huffington Post)

President Coico published a piece on the Huffington Post last week urging lawmakers and public universities to preserve their mission of providing an affordable education, and to better connect students to networks that can provide a pathway to successful post-graduate careers. You can read the entire post here.

From the Huffington Post:

… “Access to affordable higher education has enabled people like me to take their lives on a different trajectory than would have otherwise been possible. Many have attained higher living standards; a few changed the world through their contributions. At City College, we claim such illustrious alumni as Gen. Colin L. Powell, Andrew Grove, Jonas Salk and nine Nobel laureates.

Clearly, public colleges and universities have been a win-win for both the students who attend them and the states and cities that support them. The higher tax revenues resulting from increased lifetime earnings and the economic development supported by entrepreneurship and university-based research offer one of the highest returns to be found on public investment.

Today, however, the pathway faces challenges at both the point that students enter college and after they graduate. States have slashed support for their colleges and universities, forcing them to raise tuition to unaffordable levels. New graduates often have to take unpaid internships to gain entry to their chosen fields. That’s a huge barrier for those who need to work to support themselves and pay off student loans. Continue reading “Preserving and Strengthening Access”

‘Let’s Get Ready’: Not Your Ordinary Work-Study

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by Angela Choi, Community Engagement Fellow at the Colin Powell School

When you scan the list of available federal work-study jobs, many are in campus offices or departments needing administrative help. But there’s another opportunity, one that takes you away from paperwork and into the City College community.

Let’s Get Ready is a nonprofit organization that provides free SAT preparation to students from families with low incomes, and assists these students throughout the college application process. Let’s Get Ready at City College is a different kind of on-campus work-study, where students awarded federal work-study funding get paid to do great work. It’s a unique opportunity to engage and have an impact on your community.

While I was still in high school, I had a burning desire to go to college—but I didn’t know how to get there. My parents had not gone to college in this country and were unfamiliar with the application process. My parents believed it was my high school’s responsibility to help me get into college, and expected their support. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t the case. Continue reading “‘Let’s Get Ready’: Not Your Ordinary Work-Study”

Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part II)

This is the second post in a two part series on a Wiki created by the Colin Powell Center’s Partners for Change fellows to explore themes around the idea of “service”, focusing here on “permanence”.

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This “word cloud” was generated using terms pulled from the fellows’ Service Wiki. Image via Wordle.net.

This is the second post in a two part series on a Wiki created by the Colin Powell Center’s Partners for Change fellows to explore themes around the idea of “service”.

During our discussions of “service” in the Partners for Change seminar another emergent theme was “permanence.” Questions and assertions of service projects’ longevity and sustainability were tossed around while trying to define what makes a project effective. In other words, how do we know if service is making an impact? There were several conflicting views on permanence as it relates to service, but all the fellows’ voices were heard. At the end of the unit, and perhaps after some important time for reflection, the fellows produced a collaborative voice in their “Service Wiki.” The following is an excerpt on “permanence.” Continue reading “Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part II)”

Helping Students on the Way to College, a Fellow Learns about Herself

On a university tour with high school students, Partners for Change fellow Whitley Jackson learned valuable lessons about herself and what makes her want to help others.

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Crouse College on the Syracuse University campus. Photo: Briles Takes Pictures / Creative Commons

I had the opportunity to work with the College Access Center during the year. While there I worked with high school juniors on college access and college applications through group workshops held at least twice a month. Workshop topics varied from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), to the College Board, to finding what major is best for you. Before stepping into the doors of the Center, I was worried about whether or not I would be able to help the students or if I would be able to make them feel comfortable. While at the Center, I learned to be honest about my limits and be both flexible and relatable through conversations with students individually and as a group. Continue reading “Helping Students on the Way to College, a Fellow Learns about Herself”

Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part I)

The Center’s Partners for Change fellows created a Wiki to discuss the challenges and complexities of service, here is an excerpt on the role of culture.

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A Partners for Change fellow measures community members’ blood pressure. Photo: Alejandro Cerdena

Over the course of their year, the Partners for Change Fellows supported various nonprofit organizations working to improve the state of college access and success as well as health care in the Harlem community by providing regular, weekly service. After a seminar unit on “service” in which fellows read and discussed various authors’ view points on service, several themes began to emerge. Continue reading “Center Fellows Reflect on the Meaning and Challenges of Service (Part I)”

College Access Advocacy: the Bridge Builders Forum at John Jay College

Partners for Change Coordinator Sophie Gray attended the Bridge Builders Forum at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to support the Partners for Change fellows in their College Access and Success advocacy event. Listening to the panelists of one workshop, “Envisioning my future: Panel of Professionals,” Sophie saw the theme of the benefits of volunteering emerging as the panelists spoke about their career trajectories. The day was also a testimony to the College Access Fellows’ upbeat attitude and the possibility of concrete solutions to the problems and root causes of a lack of equitable college access for all.

The 2012 College Access Fellows of the Center's Partners for Change program
The Center’s 2011-2012 College Access Fellows (from left): Shodan Rodney, Cyndi Gonzalez, Whitley Jackson, and Stephanie Guzmán.

Last Saturday, I attended the second annual Bridge Builders Forum at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to support the Partners for Change Fellows in their College Access and Success advocacy event. As I entered the sun-soaked new building at John Jay, I was pleased to see two bright-eyed and smiling Partners for Change Fellows registering and welcoming students and families to the event. During their eight month tenure with Partners for Change, the College Access and Success Fellows studied and provided service to local nonprofit organizations that tackle issues of low academic achievement, lack of college information, retention and attrition rates, and insufficient advising, among other root causes. Continue reading “College Access Advocacy: the Bridge Builders Forum at John Jay College”