In my role as Neighbor, I’ve made a point of getting to know people I would never meet in other situations. As a result I’ve made some of the most meaningful connections to remarkable people, like Andrea and Catherine, people I can now call family. Just read what they are doing, and join us. It’s so worth it.
It wasn’t like Andrea— this silence after her first year in college. She had been unresponsive all summer to Catherine’s attempts to contact her so when the phone finally rang, Catherine was thrilled to hear from her, but she also imagined the news wouldn’t be great. “Mamma Cat, I’m pregnant,” Andrea explained. “I’ve been embarrassed to call you. I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.”
The two had met through a program called College Connect when Andrea was in high school. Catherine, the program’s Director, remembers Andrea’s interview very well. “We ask a question at the end of our application, ‘Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?’ and Andrea’s answer was stark and emotional. Her brother, to whom she was very close, had just gone to prison. She was distraught.”
Andrea was a decent high school student, but she and her friends received almost no guidance about college, so for most of them it didn’t feel like a real option. Andrea was different; she was motivated to find a way, somehow. Catherine recognized Andrea’s determination and encouraged her to join the program.
College Connect teaches high school students the skills to assess and apply to colleges and then get scholarships and other financial aide so they can afford to go. But it goes way beyond that. What turned Andrea around from the apathy of her other friends was joining a “cohort,” a new peer group of students all focused on being the first in their families to graduate from college. The energy of a cohort is contagious, and by the time members go on their college tour together, they are tightly bound by their common goal.
And they produce. Since its beginning only six years ago, twelve have already graduated college.
107 College Connect students have earned over 2.5 million dollars in scholarships!
Plus, there’s Love. Catherine says, “As the Director of College Connect I don’t have a lot of contact with our cohort members, but I make sure I greet each one by name as they come through our door. It’s important they feel seen. I also come in early every morning to meditate and set an intention of love and hope and community support.” Many of these students don’t know what that’s like— being embraced as a family member.
Andrea’s silence through the summer was understandable. Her pregnancy felt like a setback, but when she visited College Connect she was greeted with excitement. She was huge! She had the baby two weeks later, and two weeks after that she was back in school.
Soon enough Catherine got another call from Andrea, but this was different. “Mamma Cat, I’m worried. I just got a letter that says I’m on the Dean’s List. Am I in trouble?”
A gift for my Birthday.
I came from a family in which College wasn’t a question. I expected to go, and I got all the support I needed. This isn’t true for these people. Without College Connect many of them don’t have a chance.
I turn 50 tomorrow, and I’m asking everyone I know to join the family at College Connect by giving a little of your money to help these kids make the leap their parents couldn’t make.
I love this program. They invite me to work with their students to develop tools for setting goals and managing stress. They are eager, funny, motivated, and part of a the College Connect family they cherish. When I ask them why they want to go to college, they respond, “So I can give back to my community.” Times have changed.
My big goal for us is to fund one of their college tours. 20-25 kids pile into vans for a four-day tour of six colleges in Southern California. They eat, sleep, and tour together, and at the end of each day they collect as a group to share their thoughts and experiences and dreams and fears. It’s an experience that solidifies their commitment to college and each other. They do that all for $7,700 or about $300 per student. That’s pretty amazing.
Here’s another way to look at your contribution.
$50 pays for a homemade lunch for all the kids during the tour.
$120 buys them all dinner. Really.
$300 pays for the entire four-day tour for one student.
$7,700 pays for the whole trip for all of them.
I set a goal last week of raising $5,000, but I’m hoping we can say we paid for this whole college tour. Can we do it? Let’s try.