Each time I meet with an AmeriCorps candidate, I ask them about their “why” – why they wish to devote a year of service to College Possible Milwaukee, when they could earn more elsewhere as a college graduate. Their answer reveals a great deal about the candidate including how they will likely approach their year of service and all that it entails. Their why and, for that matter, every College Possible Milwaukee team member’s why serves as an anchor to steady us when the occasional disappointment arises. Our “why” is what grounds us in our service to our scholars.
My why is three-fold.
First, the mission and vision of College Possible resonates with me on a deep level. I believe that to partner with scholars toward achieving their college completion goals is a high calling. To support and encourage scholars, many of whom look like me – in fact, could have been me – is incredibly exciting and rewarding.
Although I hold an M.B.A. and received my B.A. with honors, my road to both degrees was windy. I was a solid student in high school, taking honors classes and even served as a math tutor, but I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. My family lovingly pointed me toward Electrical Engineering as a promising career for a young woman of color, but after entering Tuskegee University, my focus turned more to fun than Fortran, Calculus or Mechanical Drawing. I thoroughly enjoyed my HBCU experience, but, I could have avoided some missteps along the way. I can relate to our scholars who need focused support from a near-peer mentor/coach. My second why is that I get it.
And finally, my third why is I want for our scholars all of the opportunities and options that a college degree can afford them.
Inequities and systemic barriers most definitely exist. I also believe that a college degree presents more possibilities to diversify our Milwaukee workforce, raise up community leaders and position our scholars to be decision-makers within non-profits, corporations and foundations.
What is your why?