At the end of July, Migrant Education teamed up with college admissions professionals at ThinkTank Learning to help students gain knowledge and resources for a successful path to college. Our What’s the Point of College series ends with lead instructor Matthew O’ Connor’s answer to this age-old question.
The week long extensive college preparatory workshop covered a vast array of subjects: the Common Application, the UC application, Course Selection, A-G Requirements, Extracurricular Activities, Resume Building, Choosing the Right College, Financial Aid, Career Paths, Major Choices and Standardized Testing were all topics that we focused on during our time together. This information was without a doubt important, but it was the manner in which we learned together that made the lessons actually work.
Bonding with Students
That bond was on full display when Partricia Solano (aka Patty), one of our instructors, shared her story at the workshop’s close. She’d overcome it all. Growing up, she worked with her parents in the fields, farming and maintaining the land. Her entire family of ten lived in one room— they barely had enough to put food on the table. Patty faced the task of constantly caring for her younger siblings, and she sacrificed all she could for the people she loves. Despite her dire circumstance, she overcame every obstacle, and succeeded in an unimaginable way. With the help of mentors and teachers, she received her undergraduate degree from Fresno State University. But she didn’t stop there. Through her time as an undergraduate, Patty gained resources, knowledge and encouragement. Through consistent, close mentoring, Patty discovered her incredible ability in Mathematics. Her undergraduate community encouraged her to pursue the discipline in depth, and as a direct result of that encouragement, she went on to complete her M.A. in Mathematics from San Jose State University. What an incredible woman!
As she finished her story, amidst some tears from myself and some of the students, she received a thunderous applause. Her story highlighted two major points. First, your circumstance does not define you. Patty’s unending determination allowed her to reach a level of education that few in the world have reached. Second, college opens doors. Without receiving her undergraduate degree, Patty may have never discovered her wonderful talent in Mathematics.
What’s the Point of College?
So as my wonderful group of students said their goodbyes to each other, and me, I was brought back to my question: what’s the point of college? I think the students in this workshop answered that question for me. These kids don’t come from the same background that I do. They do not have the same kinds of resources that I’ve been exposed to. Yet, most of them have more talent in one finger than I have in my entire body. If they had the resources that I’ve had my entire life, who knows how high they could soar? College should be a way to provide these students with necessary resources. College should be an avenue for each of these 25 students to be successful in life.
What’s the point of college? It’s to allow ANYONE, regardless of their background, to realize their dreams. I hope these students learned that lesson. And, at the risk of sounding cliché, no matter what these students learned from me, I learned far more from them. The most important lesson that these students taught me? You only need one week, specifically 25 hours (the length of our workshop), to form a family!