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July 03, 2020

Preparing Our Youth for College

The next chapter for our graduating seniors.

This was not the spring our graduates, or any of us, expected. A pandemic interrupted the end of year high school fanfare and the tragic events of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and sadly, many more, sparked activism around the country to take a stronger stand against racism. The spring will have a lasting impression on our graduating class of 28 youth. While supporting our seniors through these events was intense, our mentors/Friends continued working with them on preparing for life beyond high school.

Transitioning on to post-secondary education will be the next step for many of our youth. To prepare for this step, Friends helped facilitate college visits, assisted with college applications, helped youth navigate the financial aid process, searched for scholarship opportunities with their youth, provided guidance on writing essays and helped prepare them for interviews. Friends help set expectations to get youth comfortable with the idea of transitioning to college life and the big step of moving away from home for some. They have also had to reset those expectations, as college life in the fall may look very different due to COVID-19.

Friends and their youth attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) college fairs and college fairs sponsored by local high schools. One of our Friends, Natasha, arranged a 4-day overnight college tour last summer. The group toured Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, Whitworth College, Central Washington University, Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington. Youth stayed two nights in a dorm, ate in the campus eateries, toured the campuses and observed college life. The experience was both educational and enlightening to each youth on the tour. Tours in the fall brought youth to Western Oregon University and the Evergreen State College. A local tour included visits to Lewis and Clark and the University of Portland. A total of ten college visits were organized by Friends between August and November 2019. In addition, we hosted Friends of the Children Scholarship essay workshops for youth and their mentors.

After the college visits were the lengthy applications. Friends carve out the time to sit down with seniors and their caregivers and walk them through the whole process. They also facilitate visits with the youths’ high school counselors to give their counselors insight into their plans for college. For Friend, Natasha, she begins the college application process early. They start in the summer with youth drafting their personal statements and practice filling out paper application forms before submitting the final applications. Friends also work with youth to seek out and apply for scholarship opportunities, including scholarships from our own Friends of the Children Scholarship Board.

The main highlight of these college prep activities were the overnight visits. The impact of going away, out of state, and experiencing on-campus life was impactful. They learned of the available opportunities and college become a tangible possibility and a reality for many of them. College-bound or not, we look forward to seeing this group become our future community leaders, scientists, front line workers, builders, makers, health care specialists, artists, activists and so much more. Although we were not able to celebrate with them in person at our annual end-of-school party, we orchestrated a graduation car parade. Friends staff fanned out across Portland in decorated cars to cheer on and celebrate our graduates. We are so proud of each of these amazing individuals!

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