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Making change in the Midwest | Reflections from a first-year AmeriCorps coach

By first year coach Brian Ramirez

Having grown up in Southern California, my schools were outdoors, and lockers were nonexistent. The concern of layering up for the cold was foreign to me, unlike the reality in Minnesota where I serve as a College Possible AmeriCorps high school coach. I was taken aback during my first month of AmeriCorps service seeing “indoor high schools” for the first time ever, continuously surprised by the classroom sizes. Most classrooms were larger than I had initially imagined from the hallway. In my first month of service, I dedicated time to engaging with the high school staff and immersing myself in the school’s and state’s culture. For instance, sharing a locker with a partner held significant weight in high school relationships, while cheese curds were considered a cherished snack among Minnesotans.

At Patrick Henry High School, I find myself immersed in a cinematic experience of Midwest living, while striving to enact positive change, supporting the students I serve in achieving their aspirations and goals. I feel fortunate and grateful for the work I do with College Possible. Having received support from a college access program during my high school years, I identified several role models within that program. Consequently, I aspire to provide a similar experience for students, or at the very least, serve as a trusted sounding board for their ideas. In both scenarios, there exists an implicit expectation that I should feel comfortable and confident engaging in challenging conversations when necessary. Failing to do so would mean a disservice to both the student and my role as a college access coach.

In November, I encountered one such crucial moment during a one-on-one conversation with a student. Our initial conversations portrayed an individual who was resolute and unafraid to advocate for their needs. Swiftly, we developed a relaxed yet solid relationship, almost as if we had known each other since their first year of high school. I was even invited to attended their performance in the school’s play, ‘After Hamlet.’ After growing such a postivie connection, our meeting in November was shocking, as the student surprised me with unexpected plans we had no yet discussed. With a looming deadline for one of their favorite schools, the student expressed interest in taking a gap year, relocating to Florida, and starting a business selling houses with their cousin. It was a pivotal moment, akin to a fight-or-flight situation for the student. I guided them through the pragmatic steps necessary for pursuing their alternative plans, while urging them to finish their application and embrace their resilient spirit, as I recognized within.

A week later, we reconvened, and both of us acknowledged the emotional impact of our one-on-one conversation. The student expressed immense gratitude, revealing that our discussion had provided the necessary push to complete the application. Although my service allows me to explore the Midwest, I consider it a privilege to be positively impacting students’ lives, just as others have done for me.

Do you want to help inspire students like Brian does? Learn more about serving with College Possible. You could be a critical support system and coach to a student throughout their college journey.

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