This past Thursday I gave the first workshop of Breaking Cycle’s partnership with the Latino Student Fund at Cardozo High School. Cardozo is colloquially known as the “castle on a hill”; taking a look at the picture accompanying this weeks post will give you a clue on how it earned its name. The official title of the workshop was “On the Importance of Post Secondary Education” i.e., why does college matter?
The kids that go to these workshops are part of “Listo”, a college readiness program of the Latino Student Fund. This means that they’ve demonstrated some degree of interest in continuing their education after high school and are required to be upperclassmen in order to attend. After we did introductions I asked the students if they would be comfortable going around the room and sharing the first emotion, feeling, or thought they associate with the word “college”. They agreed.
Their responses included ‘nervousness’, ‘anxiety’, ‘expensive’, and the one that stuck with me the most: “college is another world”. I’m in my third year at the University of Maryland. When I’m walking to and from class worried about midterms the privilege of my experience sometimes takes a back seat in my mind. There’s always another email to draft, application to fill out, chapter to read. It never seems to end. But it wasn’t too long ago that I felt the exact same way.
Intimidated by the college process, unsure of where to apply for aid, unaware of the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. I felt a great deal of shame in not knowing because, while my classmates weren’t exactly cruising through the process, it felt as if they possessed an unwavering confidence I was still desperately searching for. I’ve gotten to this point in my life because of some amazing professors, my family, and my sister and partner, Liza Arias. She’s a trailblazer, the first woman in our family to graduate from college. Whether it's career advice, internship prospects, or just a bad day I know I can count on her when it matters most.
Throughout the course of these workshops, I hope to provide a semblance of this support to the individuals enrolled in “Listo”. I’m not an example to follow, but a reflection of the good that can come to the life of a young person when they are told that their effort matters, that an uncertain future should be exhilarating and the source of excitement not anxiety. I’m approaching these workshops with cautious optimism and unwavering determination. If we can make the college process manageable for even a single student this project, built on the belief that it's never too soon to begin making a difference, will be a success.