By: Freidricka Camille, College and Career Mentoring Program Coordinator
Photo courtesy of AALEAD Staff
This is an exciting time to consider applying to be a College and Career Mentor with Asian American LEAD (AALEAD). Not only is Asian American LEAD bolstering its college access support for high school students, we are also expanding our College and Career Mentoring Program to all local college and gap year students in AALEAD’s programs. With this expansion, AALEAD is able to offer continuous support to address the college transition and career preparedness needs of low-income first-generation Asian American youth.
I am the first in my family to attend college in the United States. Though my parents attended higher education, they did so in another country, many decades before we immigrated to the United States. When it was my turn to attend college, I remember being overwhelmed, navigating the unchartered territory of filling out university and financial aid applications with limited guidance from school and home. I did not grasp the differences between federal loans, private loans, fixed interest rates, and variable interest rates. My family and I were just grateful when I received a sizable loan to supplement my merit scholarship, with little understanding of the long-term financial impact of a variable high interest loan. I was ignorant of the fact that I could seek loans with lower and fixed interest rates. Once in college, I noticed that my non-immigrant peers had a certain confidence and seemingly secret knowledge to accessing on-campus resources or professional opportunities.
Other immigrant families from Asian households may be familiar with the adages “work hard to achieve the American dream” and “obey your elders.” They were sayings that my family drilled in my brain from childhood and until I got my early internships and jobs in college. Work hard. Obey your elders. These phrases accompanied me when my older work supervisors gave me multiple tasks with competing deadlines that coincided with my mid-terms week in college. I became known as the efficient and hard working intern. I struggled to understand why other young colleagues seemed to easily develop rapport with their supervisors or to have the ability to get their mundane tasks changed to the more exciting, interesting ones. Meanwhile, I stretched myself thin and failed to to balance a healthy lifestyle with work and academics. Work hard. Obey your elders. It was not until later in my young professional life did I develop the confidence, communication, and self-advocacy skills to navigate team dynamics and politics in the workplace. I eventually found peace in accepting that my family’s insights about college and young professional life were rooted in their cultural reference of their early adulthood experiences in a foreign country, a world away, incompatible, from my American college and young professional life.
Now, as I work to match College and Career mentors with first generation Asian American youth, I regularly think back to my journey in college and at my first professional job. I think back to the mentors I had at my first internships and jobs, the caring adults who were able to give me culturally relevant advice, in a way that my parents couldn’t, on navigating college and work as a young Asian American woman. In my role at AALEAD, it is especially meaningful and rewarding to facilitate a space where mentors empower and guide older youth to successfully navigate life into young adulthood.
The College and Career Mentoring Program matches recently graduated Asian Pacific American high school students who are attending college or taking a gap year in the DMV area. Mentors provide students with personal, academic, and career guidance necessary for students to make informed decisions about successfully navigating their college and career paths. Mentors model positive behavior and partner with mentee in their own professional development by providing opportunities for mentees to meet their personal, collegiate, and professional goals. Additionally, mentors support mentees in accessing campus or professional resources in order to reach their full potential.
To learn more about opportunities to mentor in the College and Career Mentoring Program, please contact Freidricka Camille, College and Career Mentoring Program Coordinator, at 202-329-0827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.