For the past year now, I have been involved with the PACE program (Pathways to a College Experience) through our Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. Along with a few other U of R students, I have been going to John Marshall, a local Richmond public high school, as a mentor to discuss and help the students with college readiness. This encompasses a bunch of different aspects from the application process, academics, and financial aid awareness to communication skills, interviewing, and more. To say it has been rewarding would be highly cliché and perfectly fitting.
This morning, five of those John Marshall juniors came to campus to present their end-year projects. These students have been working with a U of R First-Year Seminar class to write, narrate, illustrate, and put a soundtrack to a digital story about their lives. This project was designed to get them thinking about essays they will soon write for college applications.
One student spoke about confronting his mom about stealing money from her and how it changed his outlook on honesty. Another spoke about how a football injury caused him to have a finger amputated, but he still is a starting player on his high school team. A third student created a silent flash-card video, writing her story on and flicking through cards, which included some really impressive artwork. Fourth, we had a student talk about his first job working at a museum and how that has motivated him to find other jobs. Finally, the last student discussed his desire to go to college to prove everyone wrong who has ever told him he won’t succeed.
The whole event was so inspiring, and every time I work with the students it makes me wish I had gotten involved with this program first thing freshman year. As open as the layout of the program is to us, I feel like I could have planned and organized a great set of experiences to share with the students. PACE is such a great opportunity not only for U of R students, but the high schoolers we work with, and I can only hope it gains more momentum in the years to come.