By Lonneshia Webb, College Persistence Manager at KIPP LA Schools
In my daily work, I support students who are in college and striving to reach graduation day. I know what sorts of challenges these students may encounter — because I’ve faced them myself.
I went to college feeling lost. I was the student who questioned whether or not I was worthy enough to attend my university because I was the first in my family to pursue higher education. I grew up in an underserved community where going to college was the exception, not the norm.
I’ll never forget how overwhelmed I felt during my first semester of college. I struggled to make a connection with others in my classes and dorm, and I began to see a decline in my academic progress. I told myself that a local college might have been a better fit because I wanted to hang out with my old friends and see my family.
But then I found a lifeline. I reconnected with a mentor I had in high school to share my frustration with feeling like a fish out of water. After countless conversations and dealing with the aftermath of my first failing grade, my mentor finally inspired me to access my campus resources. I joined the Black Student Union and soon after found my comfort space: I gained a close group of friends and we all promised to keep each other on track and strive to do our best in all our classes. If it were not for my mentor and new college friends, I would have gone back home, missing out on the opportunities that were afforded to me.
Now in my role on the KIPP Through College (KTC) team, I can pass on my lessons learned to students like me. Just last week, I called a student I hadn’t heard from in a while. Through our conversation, I learned that she was having a lot of trouble with her coursework. I recommended she go to her professor’s office hours and access the tutoring center. She was nervous to speak to her professor, which resonated with a feeling I used to have in college. We role-played the scenario, where I pretended to be her professor and she practiced confidently asking for assistance.
The work I do with students takes many forms. Today, I texted several students to remind them of our Financial Literacy Workshop. Tomorrow, I am meeting with a student who needs help applying to summer internship programs. Next week, I am connecting a student with a lawyer to explore her career interests. I hope that providing students with this added support will help them to not feel lost like I did.
I joined KIPP to make an impact on my community, inspire youth, and help our alumni reach their highest potential. I believe that all students should have an equal chance at a choice-filled life, and I strive each day to help them find and embrace those opportunities.