This week starts the onboarding of 43 new AmeriCorps members in Oregon. In a normal year, that means that we’d all be loading onto a plane at PDX on our way to Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota to experience Kick-Off with all of our other College Possible sites. Of course, this year is far from normal. Instead, we’ve replaced Kick-Off with Welcome Weeks — three weeks full of virtual trainings, community building activities, self-paced videos and more.
AmeriCorps coaches will begin meeting with students after just two weeks with us, so we have a lot to cover to make sure every coach is up to speed and feels confident in their role as a near-peer advisor, and as a member of the College Possible Oregon team.
I never imagined that when I took over as Oregon’s executive director that it’d be in the middle of a double pandemic, but if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that nothing can be predicted and that I don’t want to go back to the way it was before. As I reflect on the end of last school year, I am proud of our team’s ability to quickly adjust and maintain continuous support for our students as COVID-19 hit. We were fortunate to have well-established systems that allowed for the switch to a completely virtual coaching environment, and although the changes have been hard, the ability to be a stable presence for our students during such uncertainty was incredibly important.
As we begin this year, we are making even more adjustments to better support our students through rapid and difficult changes. I’m focused on supporting our staff and stabilizing our funding, as well as increasing our attention and resources on racial equity learning and culturally responsive teaching practices. I choose to see the disruption as a challenge to utilize our sphere of influence to help create a new “normal” for our team and the students we are in service to on their college journey. COVID-19 has laid bare the systems of inequity for all to see and it is our collective responsibility to take action to create a future where all students and their families do not just survive, but thrive.
The road ahead will be difficult, but one thing I know for certain is that our students are amazing, resilient, determined and 110% capable. They face incredible injustices from birth and still persist despite it all. We all need more support and connection in every facet of our lives, and College Possible is committed to being that unyielding support for our students and their families so they can finish their college journey and reap the transformational benefits and opportunities that come with earning a college degree.
I invite you to reach out if you have any questions about how we’re adjusting our programming this year. I can be reached at ENischik@CollegePossible.org.
I look forward to seeing what these 43 recent-college graduates, who are full of energy, excitement and ideas, will bring to our team and our work this year.