Building communities is probably the main reason I became involved with this type of work.
2013: Back at Franklin High School. I really felt that my coaches were great at setting up a community for us as we prepared for college. All the late school evenings, open labs, icebreakers and deep talks with my coaches. The lunch hangouts and after-school sessions at College Access Now were something to look forward to.
Little did I know that I would be creating those same spaces five years later.
2018: I had just graduated from University of Washington Seattle with a major in psychology and minors in music and digital art. My goals, at the time, were to find a job in either education or sound design. Luckily, I had found my place in the Seattle theatre community where I could earn money designing sound effects for live theatre. But it wasn’t enough for me.
I wanted to help others in pursuing their goals. I wasn’t sure at the time where to do that, but I was motivated to help in any way possible. Then a friend messaged me with a job opening. It was for a position at College Access Now (now College Possible Washington) to be a college access coach.
In a heartbeat I applied. Fast-forward a few months and I was now a senior coach at both Todd Beamer High School and Decatur High School. I was building relationships with two cohorts and advising them on many of their college applications and aspirations. Even as my term came to an end, I wanted to continue. There was a burning passion within me to continue my work in education and college access support. I had already built relationships with the juniors at Decatur, and so I continued to advise them through their senior year for my next service term.
While we worked through college lists, applications, and scholarships, there were many small, sweet moments that I will never forget. The random deep talks, holiday get-togethers, and virtual face mask/self-care sessions — all of these moments reminded me of when I was a student and just how fun it was to be with my coaches. I was happy that I was able to create a similar kind of community after all these years.
By the time my second term wrapped up, I knew that I had to work on other aspects of my career as a higher education advocate. Just like my friend Thea, I applied for a third term with College Possible Washington’s AmeriCorps VISTA program in communications and development. Instead of working with students, however, I was learning how to work with stakeholders and coming to understand the importance of communications in a nonprofit setting. Although working as an AmeriCorps VISTA was so different from working as a coach, I started appreciating the hard work of many of my peers in the external relations team. I don’t work with many of my students anymore, but surprisingly, I still receive random Discord invites, gifts and plenty of affirming words from them to this day.
Many of these students have gone on to attend their schools of choice and are now creating their stories and continuing my example of connecting with one another in community. If it weren’t for them, I probably would never have realized my passion for student support.
This story was written by Josh Valdez, an AmeriCorps VISTA at College Possible Washington.