2014-05-30

By Sarah Binning, Communications Coordinator

Attending college can be an extremely rewarding experience (deepening your education, gaining leadership opportunities, and the ability to meet new people and try new things)—but it’s also an incredibly challenging experience. From applying to enrolling in classing to sorting out financial aid, the journey can be confusing (What is FAFSA anyway?!) and overwhelming. For many first generation college students, this is especially true.

Building Bridges for Students

At City Year, we often share the poem “Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole. In this piece a man builds a bridge to cross a high tide.  When asked why he wasted time building the bridge when he might never use it again, the man replied that he’s leaving it up for “a youth whose feet must pass this way.” This poem reminds me that our corps members are building bridges to support future first generation college graduates. 

Today, we celebrate Proof Point Day to raise awareness for first generation college students. Corps member Aysha Minot, who serves at Rogers Middle School, is proud to be a first generation college graduate. 

Strong Support Beams Make All the Difference

Aysha M.Aysha said one of the biggest hurdles was not having many people to whom she could ask questions about the application process and campus life. But all it takes is one person to make a positive impact. “My friend’s mom was a Dean at Claremont College,” she said. “She motivated me to consider applying for college and really talked to me about why continuing my education was important.”

“At first my thought was, ‘I’m not smart enough. I don’t have enough money.’ I grew up in a single parent household and my dad didn’t have much money to pay for college. […] It wasn’t that my dad didn’t want me to go. It was just that he didn’t know much about it.”

Her mentor accompanied Aysha to meetings at local colleges, and helped coached her through scholarship processes. “If it wasn’t for her, I would not have gone to college.”

Inspiring the Next Generation of First-Generation College Grads

Aysha attended the University of California, Davis and joined the Educational Opportunity Program to help ensure that other first-generation, underrepresented, and low-income college students were supported in their paths to a higher education. The program mentored students through the financial aid process, as well as provides course enrollment advice.

“It means a lot to me, and my family to be a first generation college graduate. My sister and I have both gone to college. We’re someone people can look up to.” As her cousins begin applying and enrolling in college Aysha said she looks forward to offering her insights and coaching them through the process.

Now, Aysha hopes to continue supporting more students on their educational journeys. After completing her year with City Year, she said she hopes to start a career in the education nonprofit industry. “I really want to improve the education sector so that students like me can have enough access as possible [to college and resources]. My whole life goal is to work toward educational equity,” she said.

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