What is the definition of student success? Helen. Hands down Helen is the definition of student success. Every single opportunity MAPS had to offer Helen took them.
When students came to the office at 5:30pm, Helen came at 3:00pm, allowing her to spend countless off-hours with Dr. Koo gaining insightful wisdom. We at MAPS helped position Helen in high school to make her dreams come true. Was Helen’s student success translated after graduation from high school? —Yes. Helen went to her dream school with multiple tools and attributes to succeed. She is confidant and ready to change the world (seriously), and MAPS is ready to help her make it happen.
(2012 interview) Helen is a first at the University of Chicago, with a possibility of majoring in social since and a minor in Human Rights. She graduated in 2012 from Seira Vista High School, in Baldwin Park. Besides of being a full time student at UC, she tutors in a school program, teaching 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.
When did you first hear about MAPS 4 College?
I heard about it from a bulletin announcement through the PA system at the end of my sophomore year in high school. The announcement was about MAPS and how it guides your way to college; I thought to myself I want to go to college.
So when did you join MAPS 4 College?
I joined MAPS in the summer of my incoming year, back in 2010. When I first got in, I attended the College boot camp.
What was the college boot camp about? What did you learn from it?
It was more about finding your fit, a university that fits your personality that would make you happy and to prepare you for the requirements, not just because it is a prestige university or well known. Before I joined, I only knew that I would need good grades, to take the SAT and to have extra curricular courses.
I learned that I was supposed to do research, to see what kind of university would fit me better. I had to think about the size, the number of enrollments, what majors were offered, the location, etc.
I also learned that I needed to understand myself, to know what I really like. From that Camp, I found my current school, University of Chicago.
What does going to University of Chicago mean to you?
It is a dream come true for me to be here! I saw the fruits of my labor working out for me, just by going outside of my area and following my dreams. For me, UC is a great university, from the location, number of students, and the majors they offer.
What did you mostly learn from joining MAPS?
Simply, the first thing is that people should follow their dreams. MAPS helped me to realize what my dreams are by understanding myself as a person. MAPS guides you to follow your dreams.
Finding success is relevant to each person. Instead of what is socially accepted to be successful, you should find your own success, not to just please others.
MAPS 4 college opened a new perception for me, regarding what I want in life. Good things will happen if we know what goals we have in life. Even if we do not reach our goals at the end, along the way we’ll be happy because good things will fall into place. That’s what Sarai Koo always taught us; she believed in it. I do not think I would believe in it as well if I did not see Sarai really believing in what she told us.
How is MAPS different than high school or any other program?
In high school they tell us to be successful and to go to college; that’s it! They do not give us reasons why we are supposed to do so or what is in it for us. It was just to either make someone proud or to be known. Yes they would offer some programs preparing for college, but not consistent. With MAPS, you are told that to become successful you have to be happy with yourself because what makes you happy, makes you successful. Success is different from person to another; understanding yourself is the first key to success.
What benefits did you gain from joining MAPS?
I was assigned to be a one-on-one tutor in the educational center I am currently working at. From MAPS, I taught students. It was part of the leadership program. After finishing Cohort 1, I was assigned to be a teacher. It helped me a lot as a student and a person. I also got involved in the college prep mentoring program for 2 years.
Currently, I am also trying to establish a MAPS 4 College program in Chicago. I am still working on understanding the satiation of the students in Chicago. It is a different situation than in Los Angeles. I see it more complex, but when I will know it more and understand it better, I will start the work. I am working in student centers now and making connections. Also, I learned from MAPS that connections are really important, that they can help you when you don’t know it.
What difficulties have you overcome?
At a certain time, when I was part of MAPS, I really wanted to quit. I showed up, but students sometimes never did. I was taking the program seriously, but they lacked. Although, I knew that I had to stay and never quit. If I did, I would have failed and never would have become the person I am now.
I also found the ability to accept myself and what I want to be.
Before MAPS, as I mentioned before, I had no background knowledge on what it takes to get to college. My family always encouraged me, but they also did not know enough on how to get me to college.
How would you picture your life without MAPS?
OH, MY GOD! It would suck! I definitely would not have had the courage to follow my dreams. I would also probably be in California, closer to home. I would have gone to a local university and majored on something that I do not even like, but I think I would have been successful; I would have struggled making money, for sure.
Just yesterday, I went to a nonprofit community center. I tried to reach for who was in charge. I asked him if it was possible for me to get involved in helping the community. If I did not join MAPS, I would have never done such thing to help the community I live in.
What does MAPS 4 College mean to you?
First, it is magical. Then, it is life changing, hope inspiring, giving, and a family for me.
How do you see it as a family?
MAPS supports you like a family does, believes in you. MAPS wants the best for you for no return; isn’t that what a family should be?
It is a place for security, a place where they want you to be yourself. They offer the environment that makes you want to be yourself, while you can not be yourself anywhere. That is why I see it like a family.
How do you think MAPS could have better assisted you?
I think I got a great deal with MAPS. I can not think of anything better to improve the program, but I would recommend to have more leadership programs. I think it is very important for everyone to be trained in leadership.