Fieldnote, 16 Oct. 2012

I began the day early as a mentor for the Latino Educational College Fair held at Transy. I signed up as a mentor, and when I arrived, I was given a meal ticket as well as a red shirt. I saw Miss Elizabeth from the library and we chatted for a moment. She mentioned (this I didn’t know) that her husband was from Oaxaca. She also mentioned that her husband doesn’t have his papers yet, but they were waiting for them to come in.

I taught a course on teaching the personal statement during the first break-out session during the fair. My students came from western Kentucky (two hours away) and I asked them to write down their five longterm goals for their futures, and also five people they can learn from in terms of achieving their goals. I was hoping to bring up mentors they could count on, and potentially receive letters of rec from.

I stopped students after a few minutes, and I asked them about stereotypes of Latinos. One student said, that we are hard workers. Hard workers I said, but not at school. I used some Spanish, and I realized this help to build the confianza with the students. They laughed at my jokes, and I could tell my energy kept them involved.

Another student said that one stereotype about Latinos is that they have fake papers. I chimed in, or no papers at all. Then I made that joke about the border crossing us, but I think they had heard that one before. That didn’t prevent nods of approval however.

I went around the room and asked students to share their goals. Two students said they wanted to be engineers. Two students said they wanted to be nurses. Three students said they wanted to own their own beauty salons.

Then we turned to the personal statements. I mentioned the things they should keep in mind, such as that their statement was their way to distinguish themselves, to narrate things in their lives that their academic transcripts couldn’t take into account. We then read a personal statement from a student in community college applying to a four-year university. The student in the essay was a single mother struggling to work and complete her degree, with the hopes of becoming a biology professor someday. The essay dealt with family, disappointment, strength, and the will to succeed. A great essay.

As we read it, I could see the students understood that individuals bring different challenges to college, and that this statement made the student’s “weakness” or challenge into a strength, as a place to highlight the toughness of her character, and also the importance of both family and education for her.

After the talk, several students stopped by to thank me and shake my hand. I gave them my card and told them to keep in touch.

——————–

Had to leave the fair to go to a meeting at work, but returned in the afternoon to do some informal mentoring between groups. I walked around different groups, introduced myself, and asked students what they thought of the day’s program. Most seemed to enjoy it. One group of young men said they enjoyed the program because they missed school and were able to meet girls from different schools.

Another group of young women I met said they enjoyed it but they planned on walking home. They were thinking about college they said, and the program got them thinking more about some of the specifics they would have to do before moving to the next level.

As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a teacher sitting with four young women in the shade of a tree. I approached them, inquired about their day, and also introduced myself. They asked me about my courses, and I mentioned that in one of my courses all the students had iPads. I also mentioned that the students lived in a “smart” dorm on campus as well, and that’s why they had the technology, as well as courses in common. I said it was a great program.

“That won’t work for me,” said one young woman. “I have a kid.”

“We all have kids,” said her friend sitting next to her.

I saw the moment. I pulled out my personal statement presentation notes and gave them each copies. I gave my presentation to them, and we read the statement by the single mother applying to college.

The students all nodded as we discussed the statement, but more importantly about the potential they all had, not only to achieve their dreams, but also to be parents who will provide for their children by gaining their educations. It was a great moment for them, and I reassured them I believed in them because I had known many single mother students, and in fact have invited mothers to bring their children to my classes. The young women shook my hand before they left, and I gave them each my card, and I told them to keep in contact with me.

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Sara and I at the library this evening. We were running a little late because we had to return home in order to get her flashdrive with the flyer to print out for the literacy class we will begin next week.

As soon as we arrived we were greeted by the library staff. “Gracias a dios!” said Miss Clara. “We have so many kids, thank you!”

Sara right away helped a child, and I sat with a young man named Vincent. He was in first grade. He had difficulty reading and writing, and he mentioned to me he didn’t like reading. We did a worksheet where he circled adjectives. It took us a while to finish this, but when he arrived at his math he breezed through this.

When he finished, I asked if he had a book to read. He said no. I asked him where his mother was. I spoke to her in Spanish and I old her it was important to read with him every night for at least twenty minutes. She seemed surprised that I spoke to her about this and she thanked me. She asked if Spanish was okay to read to her son. I explained that any reading with helped, and I did my best to express that any involvement was better than no involvement.

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