When I was growing up, I knew that I was supposed to go to college. My Mom was the first in her family to graduate with a four-year degree, my Dad was a lawyer. They both took me on numerous college visits and helped me organize the onslaught of college catalogs that rapidly multiplied my junior year of high school. I applied and was accepted to a small, liberal arts school in Burlington, VT where I had a truly wonderful college experience. I loved every minute of it - I did well academically, I was involved on campus and in the community, I studied abroad. I was incredibly lucky. However, when I graduated the economy was in the dumps. I left with a double major in psychology and theater, a minor in English. I wasn't exactly the most employable person. So I spent two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA member as a staff member in the service-learning department at two different universities, one in the Midwest, one in Oregon. There I watched my students struggle through school in ways that at first made me anxious and then made me angry. Students who didn't understand how to fill out loan paperwork signed off to receive tens of thousands of dollars for an education they didn't know if they wanted and that they would have to pay back for 15, 20, 25+ years after school. Students who desperately wanted to stay in school but couldn't afford the cost. Students who weren't receiving any personal attention and just dropped out with no idea of next steps. Students who learned their junior year that they hated their major when they final got to experience an internship but didn't want to change majors because they couldn't afford to keep taking classes. It was terrible. After my AmeriCorps experience I spent four years working with colleges in Oregon trying to provide support to students and staff. I wanted to create real change, however, despite the good my job did it equated to trying to put a Bandaid on severed limb. So, when my good friend and professor Michelle Jones told me that she was starting a new kind of college to address these issues head on, I was 100% in. I've spent the past year volunteering hundreds of hours of my time in support of the Wayfinding Academy. It's a new kind of college - small cohorts of 24 students start by spending their time asking big questions such as 'Who am I?' and 'What do I want to contribute to the world?' in rigorous but adventuresome classes. There are no majors. There are no checklists. The focus is strictly on the learning. And no one waits until their junior year to try something they think they might be interested in - it happens right away. Internships, apprenticeships, travel experiences, and community workshops are 50% of the curriculum. After two years students will understand what they care about, what they are good at, and how to put those together to create a life they love. And all this while paying a cost that's equivalent to a community college. The Wayfinding Academy promises that no student will leave without clear next steps, whether that’s a job, an internship, more schooling, or something else. I choose to volunteer my time and give my dollars to the Wayfinding Academy because I think it has the potential to change higher education, to offer a solution for the dozens of students I saw who felt like college was their only option (even when it wasn't their best option) or who graduated and now work jobs they hate all while paying off debt that they can't seem to get out of. I can’t imagine doing anything more meaningful for a cause I care so much about. Last month I was hired on to work at the Wayfinding Academy as one of our first full time employees. I'm honored to continue my support to this organization in this way and excited for the future. Thank you!
Review from #MyGivingStory