STRIVE, a nationwide non-profit that helps low-income students apply to college, is the newest mentoring program to arrive at the Claremont Colleges, giving 5C students another way to give back to the community, influence the life of a younger student, and become involved in education.
“I want to become a teacher, and I hope to become a principal or administrator at a high school. I know that I’ve wanted to do it for a while now, so STRIVE is a nice part of that,” said 5C STRIVE chapter board member Ola Gawlik PO ’14.
The college mentors “go into low-income high schools in their community and provide college counseling and financial aid and scholarship advice to needy high school students,” said Michael Carter, founder and CEO of STRIVE, a 2010 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis.
Carter started STRIVE as a first-year in college after experiencing the disparities amongst his classmates in high school.
“Who better to do this than us [as college first-years]—we’d just been through the process ourselves,” Carter said.
According to Carter, “Congress found that there are 400,000 low-income high school students every year who should go to four-year colleges and just don’t, and a couple hundred thousand more who under-match, which means they go to schools with worse graduation rates or less financial aid than they could be going to.”
STRIVE works “to solve this critical problem of these 400,000 kids who have such great potential but just need someone to help them across the finish line and into college,” Carter added.
STRIVE mentors are unique among other college mentoring programs in that they play the role of college counselor directly for the high school students with whom they work. Mentors from the 5Cs partner with Fontana High School, which, according to Gawlik, recently cut its budget and no longer has full-time college counselors, adding to the responsibility of the college students.
While this element sets STRIVE apart, there are many programs that connect college students with local at-risk or low-income youth to act as mentors or tutors. Similar programs at the 5Cs include Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS), Jumpstart, and Upward Bound.
Jumpstart is a program based at Pitzer College that connects college students across the nation with local preschoolers for a total of 300 hours over two semesters.
“We go in and teach them literacy and basic things that will help them in kindergarten, because it’s been proven that these kinds of programs will get them interested in school and stay in school longer when they get into their older years,” said Jumpstart tutor Kelsey Atkinson PO ’14.
“I think it’s really cool [that] you get to go into schools, see how they work, and be with the kids,” she said. “I’m thinking about becoming a teacher.”
“[I’m doing it] mostly for the kids. I want to see them grow and learn and just really enjoy learning,” she added.
PAYS is a competitive program that helps local students with academics throughout their high school years and with the college process when they are juniors and seniors. The students have the opportunity to learn from Pomona College faculty with college students as teacher’s assistants in a four-week summer program.
“As an alum of the program, my involvement stemmed from a desire to give back to the program and people that prepared me to go to college,” wrote Julie Juarez PO ’12 in an e-mail to The Student Life.
“I don’t know if I will end up in an ‘education’ career, but educational justice will continue to be an important issue in my life,” she wrote.
One of the most important aspects of PAYS, according to Juarez, is the creation of a community around the academic career of the students.
“The incorporation of family members, parents and siblings into the college process has helped families be able to support their students through such a difficult process,” she wrote.
Upward Bound is a tutoring program based at Harvey Mudd College. Unlike Jumpstart and STRIVE, Upward Bound brings high school students to the 5Cs, rather than placing college students in high school classrooms.
“We bring in students from low-income neighborhoods around Claremont and offer them help in study skills, help with specific classwork, and help in college preparation,” said Upward Bound tutor Noah Weingarten PO ’14.
“You’re helping kids who otherwise might not have been able to go to college… and that feels good,” he said.