College Dreams Coming to Fruition
Eight years ago, the Ignatian Center launched Thriving Neighbors (TN), a university-community engagement initiative intended to ensure that all children from the Greater Washington neighborhood of San Jose finish high school prepared for post-secondary education. Today, that vision is coming to fruition as children who took part in the original Thriving Neighbors After-school Enrichment Programs are now enrolled in TN's newest educational enrichment opportunity, the Thriving Neighbors High School Mentoring Program. Having participated in some of the first TN After-school Enrichment Programs such as the Design for Justice STEAM program, the Art for Change visual and performing arts program, and the Leadership for the Common Good middle school program, these students are now enrolled in the mentoring program and preparing to attend colleges across the nation.
"Mentees have the ability to learn about life as first-generation college students from SCU's Lead Scholars, who have first-hand experience and notable success in navigating the first-gen college journey," explains Adriana Meza Gutierrez Ma, TN Program Director, SCU grad, first-gen graduate and developer of the mentoring program.
Anne Sanchez, a former TN After School Enrichment program participant who is currently enrolled in TN's High School Mentoring Pilot Program, meets weekly with Elizabeth Chimalpopoca, her SCU mentor, and other SCU-high school student mentoring pairs to discuss topics that include: scholarships, study skills, personal statement writing, and self-advocacy.
Recently accepted into the 2021 College Prep Scholars Program through QuestBridge, Anne reflects on her excitement over her recent acceptance and what it means for her future.
"When I opened the acceptance email, I was in disbelief. I couldn't believe that I had been accepted to the QuestBridge program. My acceptance only made the college application process much more real, and to me, this was my first successful step."
Guided by her mentor, a College Prep Scholar herself, Anne will now be part of a group of prospective students who will attend a range of prestigious universities including SCU, Yale, Princeton, and more.
Reflecting on her own experience, Anne’s mentor Elizabeth states, "Mentoring soon to be first-gen college students makes me feel excited and hopeful that the playing field can become much more equitable. The knowledge that my mentee now has the palpable chance to afford college through QuestBridge overjoys me because as much as we worry about getting accepted into college, we worry much more about how we will pay for our education. I am ecstatic to see where she goes because I would hate to see a lack of resources prevent her from dreaming and accomplishing so much. I am glad I learned from my past experience so that something fruitful came from it for Anne."
As the 2020-21 academic year comes to a close, plans for next year’s program are underway.
“We are excited to continue the good work of the High School Mentoring Program,” explains Adriana. “Our hope is to increase the number of students we mentor, increase the number of mentors we hire, and to do in-person sessions in the near future.”