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Are You Right For Me?

Many believe that participating in mentoring programs will automatically introduce them to someone who can help advance them in life. Thinking this way is valid, however, more goes into choosing a mentor than just the benefits they offer. If you are only looking to connect with a person who can help advance your career than I suggest go to a networking event. If you want someone to help guide you, listen to your issues, and influence decisions, than you are on the right path to finding a mentor.

First, I must acknowledge having multiple mentors is not harmful. Most think only one mentor is necessary while others would rather have multiple mentors to talk about varying issues. Personally, I grew up with multiple mentors who had different views. The different views helped me to see an issue from different perspectives. I made sure I was well informed by all my mentors before making a potential life changing decision. Obviously, deciding the adequate number of mentors is a personal decision and can only be made through self-reflection.

Mentoring programs are great at introducing members to mentors who have signed up to give back to the community. If one goes to introductory events through these programs, knowing what to look for is important. Even if you choose a mentor outside of these programs it is of great importance to know what qualities/traits you admire. Making sure your values and those of your mentors align is the only way the partnership will be effective. Again, know what qualities/traits you value will only be learned through self-reflection.

Having a mentor is a necessity. A mentor is someone who can help you fight through the tough moments in life. Or, a mentor is someone to give advice on any issue one will be faced with. Mentoring programs are a great source to introduce mentors/mentorees; they should not be used to find an individual to help in career/college advancement. Once the qualities/traits admired have been defined, the processes to find a mentor will be easier and more effective.

The Only Way is to Write

Writing is the most important tool many people do not posses in their figurative tool shed. I have wrote about college and career readiness before, what I did not address is properly constructing a sentence is the most important skill one could have. In every field of study and line of work writing will be involved; be it an intense research project or sending an email to a coworker or boss. If one does not know how to accurately express them through use of written word, than college and career readiness will elude them.

People are not just born being a great writer—granted, writing comes easier to some than others—people have work daily to become an effective writer. Writing should be considered how one would consider a sport. To become a good basketball player practice is required at least four times a week. Writing should also be practiced, if not everyday, at least write three times a week. I have found it helpful to keep a journal that details my day.

Another great way to improve writing skills is by reading. I understand in high school that there is tons of homework and extra curricular activities that take priority, however, reading a chapter a day of a book that interests you is not impossible. Seeing new words and writing styles will only improve one’s own writing abilities.

Creating a strong, effective email is not an easy task. It is a skill that needs to be mastered to find success in the workforce. Emails should not show off your grandiose knowledge of vocabulary or your limited knowledge of when to use the correct punctuation. Emails should be short, sweet, and get the point clearly across. If one can write a strong email they will be looked at more highly than the rest of the filed.

The most important tool for college and career readiness is writing. Having the ability to write clearly and concisely is a huge advantage. Practicing at least three times a week and reading at least for ten minutes a day is the only way to sharpen ones skills.

Find the Right Fit

To find a college is a not a hard decision once you have discovered who you are as a person and what you want to achieve. I am not talking about knowing the exact field of study to go into, however, knowing if a college can help take you to where you want to go is important. Each school has somewhat of a reputation, and usually those reputations are correct.

Treat a college like you would treat choosing which friends to hang out with. If a person does not share your same views or value what you value, then there would be no reason to be friends with this person—no common grounds. It is the same as a college, if a schools views do no align with your school then don’t go there. There will be no success by subjugating oneself to a school that does not support your values and vice versa.

Finding the right fit takes hours and hours of research. Visiting every college that you apply for should be a priority. Books and the Internet can only give factual information about a school. When choosing a college you want to go beyond the facts. Seeing for yourself how students interact with each other on campus, how classes are conducted, and the accessibility to professors is important—and this only comes from campus tours.

A schools reputation is important to take into account, its more important for you to decide if that reputation is correct. A school the represents your views and offers exactly what you are looking for is the right choice. Success will only happen if you feel comfortable with the school of your choice. The right fit means the student body fits your personality, are the academics rigorous or relaxed (do you want to be challenged academically), and the political views of the school align with yours.

The Other Option

Yesterday I wrote about why go to college? The answer was simple: go to be challenged, grow as a person, and learn new perspectives about the world. These are intangibles everyone should strive for. However, I know that going to college is not for everyone. Many people go to school, drop out and have wasted money they could have used on finding a career that gives them joy. The problem is not many alternatives to a four-year college are advertised at high schools. Some schools still offer counseling for alternative paths along with trade classes (woodshop, auto shop, metal shop, etc.). Unfortunately, with budget cuts to high schools trade programs have slowly been wiped away as classes to take. Therefore, more students are left with no way of knowing if this is something that they will enjoy.

Even though trade classes in high schools are disappearing, there are still many trade school colleges open that want students. Trade schools are a viable option for recent high school graduates who do not go on to college. A great benefit of these schools on not only you have been set up with a career, but they help to position their graduates in the respective fields.

Society tends to look down on trade schools and feel like they are for those that are not smart enough to go to school. That is an absurd assumption. Great careers can be had from going to trade schools. In high school, discover which trade interests you and where you can go with. There are different test one can take to see which field they will thrive in. What should not happen is to let graduation come and go and not have taken active steps to ensure a solid foundation for the future.


Why go to College?

In high school the only option presented to students after graduation is college. Teachers, parents, and society tell students that college is necessary to be successful—degrees are needed to obtain a job once you are twenty-two. However, it goes unrealized that college is not for every student; there are other options other than going to a four-year institution. This blog is not going to address the other options, that will be save for tomorrows blog, the question: “Why go to college?” is what will be answered.

College is a place for expanding knowledge and understanding different cultures and concepts that were not available in high school. College is for the passionate who want to develop their brain into a weapon of knowledge, to one day benefit the community around them. One should go to college because they want to be challenged to think in new perspectives and understand how different schools of learning are intertwined. A student should not go to college because they are told you. There will only be success in college is there is a burning desire in the student to devout themselves to hours of reading, writing, attending class, and discussing issues that would not be presented at home.

Why go to college? If you are truly devoted to paying a hefty price (there are ways to make school affordable) for an unbelievable, academic challenge, then go to college. One does not have to know right away what their major will be, or who their lifelong friends will be, or even an idea of a career. One just needs to posses the burning want for the ability to view perspectives from different eyes.

The Major Dilemma

I wrote a post earlier on how to choose a major. The contents of the post were four tips one should do to pick the major that fits them. What was not mentioned is switching majors if you absolutely despise your field of study. Do not fret about switching your major; people do it all the time. I remember my original major was biology and after two more switches I ended college with a degree in English.

To come to the decision to switch a major is stressful, being uneasy about this being the right choice. It took me awhile to truly understand my passion and what I was good at. What I did do was take classes in every field of study after I decided biology was not for me. Besides fulfilling major requirements, undergraduate students have to fulfill general education requirements. I spoke to my advisor at the time and asked which classes would fulfill what and made sure that they were all in a different major department (some requirements can be in the same department).

I found that the course I took in the English department interested me the most because I spent more time studying and preparing for the class. This is the key to knowing if you truly feel passionate for a subject. I would spend hours reading about literary theories and spend minutes reading through my political science or psychology textbook.

Now, I was not thrilled with every class I took in the English department; I don’t know anyone who loved every class in their department. Therefore, before you switch your major try taking one or two more classes before fully committing the switch. Usually, it is the level one hundred courses people find to be disinteresting because they cover just the basics. Deeper into the majors the course become more definite in one area of the field of ones choosing.


You know how to choose a major, you have taken a couple classes but you know it will be miserable to continue. Then switch. There is no need to feel guilty or like you have given up. Like I said, many people switch majors.


The First Semester

The first semester of college is one of the most exciting, nerve wracking, eye-opening experiences everyone goes through. Incredible amounts of freedom is given to you that sometimes coping with the massive amounts of free time can be stressful. How do you find success in your first semester? This is a question that can be answered many ways, because every individual functions differently. However, what every individual needs to know is not to waste time. I found in the first semester so much idle time was had that freshman lost track of the time and forgot that they had to do homework, study, go to practice/club meetings. The way to success is to create a schedule that best suits you. In high school, class was everyday starting in the morning then ending in the afternoon. After school was let out students would go to sports practice, club meetings, or go home and do homework—because that was how their schedule worked. In college, there is a class schedule, but usually classes are held three or two times a week and an individual can have up to a five-hour break in between classes. What will help you properly utilize the free time is to create a schedule of when you have class, good time to study, what time your respective organizations meet, and finally some free time so you can relax.

Become Comfortable in Your Skin

MAPS has helped many students become comfortable with breaking down the barriers they have set up to accept being average or failing. Our youth development programs have given students the confidence they need in order to succeed. We found our youth development program works by using mentor or mentors (people are allowed more than one mentor) to help our students succeed. Sometimes just being a set of ears for our youth is all they need to be confident. One of our students, Vanessa Lam, had glowing comments about the benefits of MAPS and Sarai.

Before MAPS, Vanessa never had any real connections with other students, nor did she feel like she could express her emptiness:

“At the beginning of high school, I usually spent lunch and brunch by myself because I was so different from my classmates. So, I  just kept to myself and masked my true feelings, filling the void of empty relationships with busy work.  I avoided forming friendships and intimate relationships with others because it did not work out the first time.”

Without MAPS who knows where Vanessa would have been. Fortunately for her, she found MAPS, Sarai, and our youth development program. She told me MAPS had established an environment where she could thrive and freely express her dreams of attending college. Vanessa had this to say about Sarai and her system, “With her advice and support, I began to take leadership over my own life rather than letting society; because of her, I decided to challenge myself and attend Seattle University (the most awesome university ever).  She provided small yet impactful opportunities for me to gain self-confidence and reach my potential. She had created MAPS4College.”

Previous stories have been written about our familial environment at MAPS and how we believe that is what the youth need to feel comfortable. We were right; “It became my safe haven, where I vulnerably expressed my frustration about society, deepest feelings about my past, and my journey to independence. I became more involved with my city, courageously trying new things with my MAPS community.  I gained more than friends in MAPS; I gained another family.”  Vanessa has said it all. Our youth development program creates a safe space for students to learn how to be confident, courageous, and safe.

One Family

At MAPS we like to think of ourselves as one big family. The MAPS’ goal is to create a confortable environment so people can open up and talk freely about issues they are having. Our youth outreach services exemplify the familial environment that we have set up. We at MAPS know that we cannot pressure students into telling us how they feel or accepting our help. What we do is stay by them, make sure they feel comfortable with us, and then provide them with an ear to hear them out.

The youth outreach services here are one of a kind. Most of the students that we work with come from families who have never been to college or have not received high school degrees. We want to empower our students. We want them to know that going to college is not an impossible dream, but a reality. Through our college tutoring services and Summer Boot Camp, we teach students the necessary skills they need to be successful in college.

The Summer Boot Camp is one of the most successful of all the youth outreach services that we provide at MAPS. This intensive eight-day program (it used to be a three day overnight program) exposes students to professionals that work in different college admissions offices. The admissions counselors review the materials they are looking for acceptance AND help the students write their personal statement. During the duration of the camp, we witness students’ open up to others and to us about how much they believe in themselves and the fire to succeed in college.

MAPS is a great place to be a student. The youth outreach services provided are one of a kind. We want our students to feel comfortable in our familial like environment. Believing in our youth is the only way for future success; MAPS believes in our youth.


Step Up. Have an Active Voice. Lead.

During my sophomore year, the college started to offer a leadership development program lead by professors from different departments on campus. However, I always seemed to have practice during the times these classes were being offered. I was upset that I could not attend, so I found away to obtain the information. I learned some of my professors and tennis coach were serving as mentors in this leadership development program; I explained my situation to them and was able to receive the information necessary to take part in the course.

It was not required of me to go through the leadership development program, but I knew that this would be highly helpful information for the future. My professors, who served as the role of mentors to me, taught different strategies to force yourself into a leadership role, how to feel comfortable being a leader, and why it is important to have leadership qualities. The semester long course was truly helpful. I started to be more of an active voice within my fraternity and even in classes when group work was assigned. Looking back on the course I believe that it was designed not for one to immediately be a leader, but for one to become an active voice in their community and their own life.

How to feel comfortable being a leader was one of the most effective portions of the course. Before the completion of the leadership development program I never wanted to inject input into class or a general conversation; I would say something if I knew I was 100% right or I was comfortable with the situation. I avoided speaking because I had a strong desired to be liked—and I felt if people disagreed with my views then I would no longer be liked. This program taught me to disregard that notion and know that it is better to speak than not speak at all. A leader needs to be willing to accept that not everyone will agree with his or her opinions; this should not stop you from leading or speaking.

At MAPS we offer a leadership development program that helps students take control and have an active voice. If a program and mentors were offered to me in high school I would have jumped on the chance to partake. Shying away from a leadership role is a sign of possessing zero self-confidence. Maintain confidence, step up, have an active voice, and be a leader.