For Kevin Bautista, serving as an AmeriCorps coach with College Possible Chicago means providing students the same support he once needed when preparing for college. In high school, he remembers feeling stressed about how to navigate the process. “As a first-generation college student, I wasn’t always sure what to do when it came to things like applying for scholarships or filling out FAFSA,” said Kevin.
When he learned about College Possible at the start of his junior year at Lake View High School, he immediately signed up. Now, after graduating from DePauw University, Kevin has once again returned to Lake View, this time to serve as a College Possible coach rather than a student.
Kevin’s passion for service began at DePauw, where he participated in the Bonner Scholars Program, a competitive scholarship for students committed to volunteering in their communities. As a Bonner Scholar, he was able to draw from his own background in computer science, volunteering to teach robotics to students at a local community center. For Kevin, this opportunity strengthened his interest in not only service, but also education, a field he hopes to continue to pursue in the future.
Volunteering in college was an impactful and eye-opening experience for me,” said Kevin. “It helped me realize that teaching students, especially those with limited access to resources, was something I was very passionate about.”
This experience, combined with his own background as a College Possible student, drew him to serve as a coach after graduation. Through an AmeriCorps year of service, he hoped to make a difference for other first-generation students, helping guide them through the overwhelming college process. Since returning to Lake View, Kevin has been surprised to see how many new challenges students are facing due to COVID-19. “Students have gone through a lot during the pandemic,” he said. “They are working many hours and balancing jobs with academics and extracurriculars.” He described how one high school junior works at her after-school job until close to midnight, leaving her little time for homework, let alone college planning.
To help students navigate these challenges, Kevin meets with them one-on-one to create priority lists and talk through the problems they are facing. From his own experience as a College Possible student, he knows this individual support can make a significant difference. Whenever he was feeling especially stressed as a high schooler, his coach Taylor would offer reassurance, helping him talk through his concerns and make a plan for completing tasks.
As a coach, Kevin now offers the same support, taking time to build relationships with his students through individual conversations in addition to the twice-weekly sessions he leads after school. He also looks for opportunities to provide students with resources they may not be able to get from anyone else, including friends or family. “I try my best to find and open as many doors as possible for my students,” said Kevin.