By Neel Saxena, Executive Director
Photos Courtesy of Freidricka Camille, College and Career Mentoring Program Coordinator
AALEAD’s approach to out-of-school time programming relies on the strengths brought by the youth who take part in our after school, summer, or mentoring programs. Asian American youth often join our programming to fill a void left by mainstream support networks, particularly to find a community and programming that is inclusive of their identity. The positive youth development approach of our programs guided the evolution of the College and Career Mentoring Program (CCMP) this past summer where youth voice played a significant role in developing programming focused on college and career readiness. Thanks to support from Bank of America, AALEAD was able to really ramp this support up and respond to the overwhelming interest by youth.
For high school seniors who chose college as their post-secondary path, the CCMP Program Coordinator, Freidricka Camille, has accompanied these youth with one-on-one and individualized discussion as well as offered small group support during AALEAD’s after school program time. The topics covered varied depending on the youth, the following are some of the focus areas this past year:
Most of the youth sought support with their essays. The essays are a way for colleges and universities to learn about students beyond test scores and could be used as a deciding factor for admissions as schools move to holistic admissions. For Asian American first generation college students (FGCS), this is stressful process, as it is for all students, with additional unique stressors like college information gap and cultural barriers at home, pressures to conform to stereotypes of admission to 4-year college, and struggles with navigating multiple cultures. The essays often focus on individualistic perspectives, yet culturally many Asian American FGCS grew up with a collective identity so it can become challenging to open up to share their personal story. Furthermore, families with traumatic pasts such as a refugee experience may find it harder to share their full selves with strangers.
The importance of Fredricka’s individual relationship building, familiar connection to AALEAD, and culturally sensitive support provided our high school youth the opportunity to share their story and develop essays that reflects their true self and not a formulaic essay template.
Developing their essays, however, was not the only area youth found to be impactful and the beneficial of the program. Often, college readiness programs focus on standard topics. With AALEAD’s College & Career Mentoring Program, through programming that included identity development, participants also receive emotional and social supports which research has hypothesized to be more important than instrumental or practical support for FGCS.
“I really knew nothing about college process, so everything was helpful … I learned , ‘DON’T PANIC’, everything may seem hard, but you’ll be fine, believe in yourself”– AALEAD’s CCMP Participant