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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.


Road Map to Success

Disorganization in life does not lead to success. Unfortunately, I found this statement to be true the hard way. My freshman year of college I had a flippant disregard to setting up a schedule for myself. I went to class when I had to and practice when it was time, but homework fell by the wayside. I never set up a road map to help me succeed that semester. I did not properly sit down and think about how to achieve goals for myself. When informed about a test or a paper due I would wait until the last minute to study or write; I was fully aware that this was not how I should be going through college—I needed a road map.


What is a road map?

A road map is a pathway to success. It helps define what goals you want to achieve, and how to accomplish them. I decided the only way I would succeed in school was to write my goals on a piece of paper and write down how to find success. Once this was complete I was able to keep track of my progress and if I was doing everything I needed to do. The road map truly helped me refocus myself on school and I managed to have a successful end to my freshman year.

What should be on a road map?

Individual goals and how to achieve them is what the road map should consist of. To go into specifics, one of my goals was to finish my creative writing class with an “A” grade. How I did this? I made sure to schedule times to read and write for the class. I found dedicating a certain time and day to one subject made me more productive than just bringing all my work at random times to the library. Once I created a specific study schedule I was able to excel as a student and not just succeed in one class, but also have success in all my classes.


Before, I felt like I was lost at sea bobbing above water straining to hold my head up so I could survive. With a road map, I did not just survive; I succeeded. Being able to physically see my goals and know the steps to achievement was—and still is—incredibly beneficial. Define your goals, create a road map, and success is within reach.

The Alumni Factor

College mentoring programs can be extremely beneficial for an undergraduate who is trying to research potential careers. I know in many colleges different organizations have their own network of alumni that reach out to current students. At my respective university, Gustavus Adolphus College, alumni mentoring programs are sponsored a couple times a semester. These events are a good way for undergraduate students to connect with people in different industries.

There are numerous benefits by being involved in college mentoring programs; the biggest benefit is the easy access to establishing connections in your respective field. Alumni love to help current students find jobs, or internships, so they can gain the experience that is required to succeed in their respective careers. If the student is involved in the same organization the alumni was (fraternity, sports team, student government, etc.) the alumni will be more willing to help.

Another positive about joining organizations to be apart of the mentoring programs is it teaches how to effectively network. It can’t be stressed enough how important networking with the right people is. Effectively networking comes by periodically communicating with those in a position higher than yourself who can help advance your career. If you are reluctant to network know this, if your resume is up against someone’s who has the same credentials as you, you will most likely get the job because you have connected with a person in that industry who vouched for you.

As a student it is hard to think about future career possibilities. Students feel that college will last forever, unfortunately, four years goes by fast. What a responsible student should be doing in these four years is networking through the college mentoring programs. Alumni are some of the best resources to find a job after college, get to know one.


The Important Questions to Ask

There are many factors one needs to think about to find a college that is a perfect fit. A couple of the factors a student should evaluate when it is time to find a college are: location, academics, cost, and campus life. If these four things are not at the forefront of every college visit, then you must reevaluate the effectiveness of your research. Before more is written about the four main factors to find a college, lets answer a question: When should a high school student start visiting college campuses? I took my first college tour during my second semester of my freshman year. Colleges look a student’s four-year portfolio; the earlier a student knows what they are looking for the earlier they can start working towards the requirements.

Location is the biggest factor to find a college that you will be successful at. The first question about location is: “Do I stay in state or do I go out of state?” This question is a little more complicated than one would think. There are many advantages to staying in state, for example: the price of tuition is usually lower for in state students than it is for out of state students. However, what if you want to experience a new environment? In a place like California, it is so big that going two hours away from your house can feel like you are out of state (but, California is a little different from most states). Another question to ask when thinking about location is: “Will I like the weather?” For me, I was born and raised in Southern California (sunshine 360 days a year); I chose to go to a college in Minnesota. It was a huge adjustment for me to cope with the snow and severe cold. It took me a year or two to end up liking the snow and knowing that this was the right location for me. As we know, people are different, if you don’t like the rain, do not go to a college in Seattle just for its name.

A college should not be chosen because it is well known. A college should be chosen because they have a good academic program and the department you want to study in has great courses to offer. As a high school student you should have discovered by your senior year what academic interest you have; do not go to school not knowing what interest you—a year of education will be wasted. This is not to say that you should know what your major is going to be; I switched my major three times.  Ask question while on tour about what each major offers, who the professors are, what students think about the different academic departments, and how well those departments prepare you for life after undergrad (be it post-graduate study or a career). Finally, how big are the classes? I found that going to a smaller school was better for me because the class sizes were smaller and I received more attention form the professor.

Cost, cost, cost. I mentioned above the cost differences of going out of state versus staying in state. The cost of a college should not be a reason one choses not to go to a school that they find is right for them, but it is a factor that needs to be talked about. It is not necessary for a student to go to a school that cost fifty thousand dollars or more to study a subject when they can get the same level of education at a much cheaper school. Obviously there are tons of scholarships offered that can bring the tuition down and there are also loans (be careful when taking out loans).  Just ask yourself, can you afford going to this school, and how much are you willingly to pay in loans?

Campus life is the last factor in the search for your perfect college. Is the college a residential campus? What sports are offered, and what NCAA division is the school? Are there a lot of organizations I can get involved in? If it is a residential campus, how is the cafeteria food? How many students are enrolled? What is the culture like? There are many questions that need to be asked when on a tour of a college or just researching. The environment of a campus will be huge when it comes to success in school.

As you can see, there are many questions to be asked on your search to find a college that will help you excel. When researching, know the questions to ask and what to look for in the university. Success in college will only be found if you are 100% comfortable in your college environment.



Studying is The First Step To Success

The first step to college success is to take responsibility when it comes to preparing for college. The most important step in this process is learning how to properly study. In high school, teachers and parents are present to remind students that they have a test or homework due, and that they need to study this day for a certain amount of hours. In college, the student is only told once about a test or when a paper is due; professors will not tell students to study or when to write the paper. I believe I was successful because when preparing for college I was able to take responsibility—here is how.

I would like to attribute my success in college to my ability to study; also to self-motivate myself to do homework. Self-motivation is the most important trait any student can posses. The trait starts with a hunger to succeed in not just school, but in life. Without it, it will be hard to find success. Finding self-motivation in high school is the first step in preparing for college.

High school is the place to learn when and where to study. In college, there are numerous distractions—so finding a place to study might be hard at first. I found the dorms were the worst place to study, but my roommate could only study in our room. I choose to write papers in the cafeteria and study for test in the library (always with a group). Locating the right place is challenging, but once you have found the place that feels most comfortable, study sessions will become highly effective and efficient.

Group studying in college is incredibly common. There is so much material to review for a test that it is almost impossible to learn everything, or so it seems. I was not a big fanatic of group studying in high school—I would work in a Starbucks with a friend sometimes—it did not seem to be effective. In college I realized I should have been utilizing group studying. The effective part of groups is that the material can be split. One person is responsible to become an expert on their respective topic and is then required to teach the group making it easier to cover more material and be more comprehensive.


Succeeding in college is not hard as long as you take responsibility by preparing for college in high school. Learning proper study techniques is the first step to success. A student must know how to: self-motivate, find the most comfortable place to study, and be accepting to group studying.


Being an Intern

I have briefly mentioned in these blogs internships, and the importance of having an internship to gain job experience. I have not written about what you should look for in an internship and what your mentors should contribute to your role. There are many internships that are centered on hands-on learning; and some are just fetching coffee and delivering mail to the employees.

As an intern you want to be involved with a company/organization that offers you hands-on experience—you can’t learn by delivering coffee and witnessing the work of others. When interviewing for the respective internship role, make sure to know the company/organization’s core values and the work they do, and also ask how your role will help the goals of the company/organization. Also, your mentors will be very helpful during your time as an intern. Utilize their knowledge of the job and their experience being in the position you were once in. The biggest mistake to make is not seeking advice from your respective mentors.

Paid or unpaid. This is extremely important when it come to choosing an internship. Most students want a paid internship, but the problem is most companies/organizations do not offer paid internships. Over the course of my high school and collegiate career I chose to work tennis jobs than accept unpaid internship positions. It would have been optimal if I could have found a way to do both an unpaid internship position and work at the tennis camps; it did not work out. The point I am trying to make is if you can find a paid internship position than that is great, but do not discard unpaid internship positions. Those positions will most likely be the ones that give you hands-on experience.

Lastly, as an intern, do not be afraid to ask your mentors or supervisors questions. Interns are not expected to know everything the first day on the job. An intern’s job is to learn. Positions that do not welcome questions or do not guide ones learning are not valuable internships.

Remember, seek an internship that your mentors once had similar experiences, do not scoff at an unpaid position, and make sure the environment is one that promotes hands-on learning.

MAPS Cares

Youth outreach services are incredibly important in this era where youth are getting sucked up into social media drama and not focusing on becoming a whole person. Here at MAPS we want to reach out to the youth and help build their self-confidence and self-awareness. Our message and goals are highlighted through our MAPS acronym: Motivate to strive for excellence, Achieve to help the community-at-large, Personal commitment to transcend perceived limits, and finally, Speak the truth to change the world.

We have many different programs at MAPS to help educate our students to be better academically and to help them create a life plan. One of our biggest and most successful programs is the MAPS Mountain Top summer camp. Here, students will spend eight days with directors of admissions of various colleges, college counselors, and other valuable members that have been through the college application process. The camp lets the students have undeniable access to the wealth of knowledge about how to write the best personal essay to properly researching colleges. The camp has proven to help students believe they can go to college and succeed (and they do succeed)!

What really makes the youth outreach services successful at MAPS is the environment. We want our students to feel like they belong in a family—because we are a family. Making sure the students are comfortable enough to open up about their personal problems and their dreams for the future. Most of our students are first time high-school graduates in their family; we like to give them figures to look up to and reinforce that they can succeed in life.


Experience is the Key to Readiness

College and career readiness is the first step to having a successful and fulfilling life. In high school this might seem like an absurd idea to start preparing for a career and thinking about a life plan; time moves fast, and you must be ready. There are many different programs and ways to ready yourself to be successful in college and then in your career. What is most important about those programs or organization is the experience you gain form being involved.

Experience is the key word in the last paragraph. To be ready for college, a student needs to be an experienced self-motivator. Unlike high school, where teachers and parents stay on top of the students to complete their work and study, college is up to the student and only the student. Professors will not bother to remind the students to study for a test, nor will the check-in on students to make sure they are completing the required work.

High school students also need to show colleges that they have been involved in two or three different programs for many years instead of multiple organizations for one year or less. Colleges want to know what the student will offer to help their institution to be the best it can be. Again, multiple years of experience in music, sports, or student government will really help a high school student be ready for the transition to college.

Career readiness is a little different than being prepared for college. In college a student needs to figure out their interested field of study, and then what jobs are available for the specific major. Once the major has been established and what jobs can be acquired from the major have been researched, students need to focus on maintaining high grades so they can obtain an internship. Most likely the internships will be un-paid, but it is the experience of working for a company that will be invaluable. Employers like to see that applicants have a strong knowledge of the job they are applying for; employers do not want to spend much time training employees.

The key to college and career readiness is experience. To be ready for college a student needs to have the experience to self-motivate so they are prepared to study on their own. College is when one starts to prepare for a future career; once identifying a major and the jobs offered from that major, work hard to obtain internships. Experience helps gain knowledge and knowledge helps a student be ready to have a successful and fulfilling life.


Create Your Own Opportunities

Many of these blogs have been focused on community service projects, how to volunteer, or why volunteering for your community is so important. I have even mentioned a couple of programs that have been popular among volunteers. Upon reviewing these different programs, perhaps those options are not favorable to you—then create your own community service opportunities. The statement might seem odd to you, how does one create community service opportunities? Is that even aloud? It is.

When I was fifteen I needed to fulfill community service hours as part of a requirement to graduate from my high school; I figured completing them sooner would be more beneficial for me than waiting until the last minute. The summer of 2006 (at fifteen) I was in Germany visiting my Aunt for a month. She told me to bring my racquets so I can train on the American military base (she is a teacher for Department of Defense), and learn how to play on clay. Unfortunately we had to pay to use the courts, however, we were able to work out a deal where I could play for free as long as I donated my time to work at the summer camp and help teach the kids the game of tennis. What I did here was take a skill that I had and created my own community service opportunity.

There are many other ways to create community service opportunities—you don’t need to have knowledge in tennis or another sport; everyone has a skill they can utilize. For example: you are an avid reader, why not go to a library and donate your time reading to little kids, or reading at an elderly care facility. If reading does not float your boat, here is another example: if you are an artist and love to paint, go to a community center and ask if they need an art class for kids—and you are willing to donate your skills and time to teach the class.

If you open your mind and be creative, you can learn how to turn your skills into community services opportunities. To volunteer you don’t always have to follow the “normal” pathway. If there is a way to utilize your natural skills and abilities to help, then do it.    It is up to you to create community services opportunities to not only fulfill high school requirements, but to help make your community a better place.