This past week, I spent much of my "free time" at school working with two students to ensure they have everything necessary submitted to the university they plan to attend this fall.
I was a first-generation college student. So are these young men.
So it came as no surprise when a few weeks went by and they hadn't followed up with me. One hadn't checked his email to notice a respond from the Office of Financial Aid to let him know that he needed to submit additional documentation.
Other had been so consumed with life (I remember my own senior year when I was so involved in other activities that I forgot to turn in any of the local scholarship applications) that I didn't focus on anything beyond high school.
So I spent a little time tracking these guys down, sending reminder texts like, "Paperwork. ASAP," and then following up in person.
It was during this process that I also had the chance to watch a young man interact on the phone with the financial aid office. I saw him struggle to explain who he is and his situation. He and I were in the same boat when it came to knowing what paperwork to actually submit, but this conversation was the first time had had ever called a "real place" (his words, not mine) and asked questions or advocated for himself.
This came as a shock. He then started listing off the things that he would have to worry about and take ownership of after high school. I could tell that he became a little scared.
Since then, I keep having these moments where I think about what high school used to be like. It was understood that after graduation, you didn't come back for a while. For these guys, I worry. If they don't stay in contact with their mentors--mentors who played an important role in helping them navigate their initial steps into post-secondary education--will they be as successful as they could be?
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