Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How you can help young Philadelphians achieve their college dreams too

Anything that helps young people in Philadelphia gain access to educational resources and support has our attention. So when we heard about Mayor Nutter’s Graduation Coach Campaign, we knew the Peirce community would want to get involved. Read on to learn how you can help a young person achieve their dream of going to college, as contributed by Sayeh Hormozi, Director of the Graduation Coach Campaign.

Growing up as an Iranian-American had many advantages. I could speak more than one language, I got to celebrate American and Persian holidays, and more. Being Iranian is a facet of my life of which I’m very proud, but it also posed great challenges for me. Especially in school.

My parents went to school in Iran. They didn’t navigate a typical American public school curriculum. They didn’t take the SATs, and they certainly didn’t apply to college in this country. So despite the emphasis on education in my house, my parents could only tell me that I should graduate high school and go to college, not how to make those things a reality. This left me somewhat alone in my efforts to filter all the information I was hearing on those subjects at school.

Part of utilizing my teachers and counselors as resources meant asking them questions; but the problem was that I didn’t know which questions to ask. And when I did ask questions, I still wasn’t capable of combining that information with my personal goals to know what steps I needed to take … much less to where.

The value of an adult perspective

It wasn’t until a friend’s mother sat me down and asked me some specific questions that I felt any sense of relief. Questions that helped me get a sense of what I was hoping to accomplish, and where I needed help. She helped me measure my own progress in school against college requirements, so I was able to make a plan that made sense for me. If it wasn’t for her, I’m certain I wouldn’t have gone to college immediately after high school.

It was through that experience, and through my experience as a high school English teacher years later, that I realized no matter how much help a student receives at school, he or she also needs back-up outside of the classroom. A person, or better yet, a team of people, to help navigate all the information a student receives in high school.

Enter the Graduation Coach Campaign

The Graduation Coach Campaign is an initiative designed to equip and empower Philadelphia adults to help area youths earn a high school diploma and succeed in college and their careers. Our vision is that all Philadelphia youth have a supportive, knowledgeable adult who can coach them to succeed, like I did. Because it made all the difference.

Participation is easy. The Campaign is not an intensive mentorship program. A participating adult, who we call a Graduation Coach, isn’t required to spend a certain amount of hours a week with a young person, nor do we match you with a young person that needs your help.

Our hope is that you already have a young person in your life that you’d like to a help—a child of your own, a neighbor’s child, or a student on the sports team that you coach in your spare time. Our philosophy is that all Philadelphia adults have access to young people, and if they are equipped with the proper know-how, they can engage them in constructive conversations about their academic success. Whether it’s only once when you offer the young man bagging your groceries some advice, or if it’s several check-ins over a period of years with your niece, it’s up to you.

All you have to do is attend a free 60 or 90 minute workshop that we offer all over the city. You’ll learn how to have key conversations with a young person about school as well as how to support them to make good choices. You’ll also gain access to a plethora of resources for financial aid and after-school engagement support (just to scratch the surface).

How you can lend a hand

As a member of the Peirce community, you are uniquely positioned to speak to a young person about college. If you’re currently enrolled in a degree program, you have immediate credibility – high school students will see you as someone who’s walking the walk. Someone who’s succeeded in achieving the goals they set for themselves. You have gone through this process, and can be the guiding light that so many of our Philadelphia area students need.

If you’re an alumni or a member of the faculty or staff, you understand the decisions people face when deciding to pursue higher education. You can act as a sounding board, and offer your advice and support to someone who needs it.

I encourage you to learn more about the Graduation Coach Campaign to see when and where there will be upcoming workshops and access resources that can help you get started on your own. We hope that you can inspire and help someone who might need that push and make a difference your community. We’ll be hosting a free training at Peirce on Feb. 19 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Room 51. Keep your eyes on our Facebook page for how to RSVP.