Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

‘College Coaches’ Changes Format, Still Has Goal in Mind

In the spring of 2010, Whitman alumna Emily Lorente ’11 started an outreach program called College Coaches, which focused on one-on-one mentorship for students at Walla Walla High School.

When the program was founded, Lorente worked for Walla Walla High and paired high school students with Whitman students for one-on-one mentorship. The individualized aspect of the program allowed high school students to get personal academic help and guidance. But when the program moved to Whitman’s Student Engagement Center in 2011, the program shifted to a classroom model.

Now, students volunteer as aides for a class called Guided Studies, which provides ninth and tenth graders with academic support. College Coaches has changed over the years but has not changed its main goal: helping high school students become college-bound through encouragement from positive role models and mentorship.

Whitman students typically volunteer for one hour a week. Junior Nate Higby has volunteered with the program for two years. He views College Coaches as one of the few opportunities near campus where he can interact with Walla Walla High School students, and he wants to use his identity as a college student to help encourage and promote higher education.

“It shows [the students that] Whitman cares,” said Higby. “The fact that we’re reaching out to them shows that we want them to succeed. When they know a really good school [like Whitman] is saying ‘You can do this,’ they start thinking college is viable. Our presence in [the classroom] alone puts college on their radar.”

Not only are volunteers positive role models for students, they also provide academic support by helping the students with homework and keeping them focused and on-task.

“On any given day, you could be helping a student with algebra––if you remember it––or you could be helping someone with a paper,” sophomore Arden Robinette said. “Or it could be someone who says ‘Hey, I want to study psychology. What does Whitman have for psychology?'”

According to volunteers, personally relating to the student can help bridge the gap between a high school and a college student. The volunteer has to be able to open up and relate to the student in order to reach them.

“It’s like walking a line between being an interesting person that [the students] could consider, ‘Oh, it’s pretty cool that he’s going to college,’ and then once they feel a little more comfortable, that’s when you can breach more into a tutor,” said first-year Tim Kent.

Kent decided to volunteer for the program because of his previous experience working with high school students when he took a gap year to coach basketball and baseball. He sees the relationship between the Whitman volunteer and the high school student as a balance between being a positive role model and a mentor with the ultimate goal of academic guidance.

“[One of the College Coaches] was getting along pretty well with a boy who at first came in [and] was talking about getting into a fight after school,” Kent said. “It was nice to see because he came in really not thinking about school at all, and then once she got there and started talking to him about math, he kind of opened up a little more.”

As the two developed a stronger relationship, they were eventually able to focus more on his schoolwork.

Senior Natalie Pond, the College Coaches intern of two years, describes the volunteering experience as transcending the boundary between college and high school. Volunteers must be willing to face the challenges present in a high school environment.

“You kind of have to reorient yourself in a really positive way,” Pond said. “It does really great things for your character. It does put people in vulnerable and challenging places. High school is so unique because it is close to home and going back to that world is kind of a struggle.”

Higby said his love for this program started before the shift in the program from a one-on-one focus to a more open format in a classroom. Last year, he worked with a Walla Walla High School student who wanted to attend Whitman.

“He was a junior at that time. He’s a senior now, and he got into Whitman, so that was a highlight of the program for me,” Higby said. “[It’s] knowing the fact that the time I spent with him and the work we’ve done together helped him achieve this amazing opportunity.”

As the intern who oversees the College Coaches program, Pond believes it still has the potential to change and grow in the future. With the number of volunteers fluctuating between 16 and 25 each semester, Pond is able to pay more attention to each volunteer and respond to the needs of the program’s partner institutions. She hopes to build a stronger connection to other area high schools besides Walla Walla High. Currently, one Whitman student teaches an improvisation class on Friday afternoons at Lincoln High School.

“We’re constantly into exploring new things [like classes at Lincoln],” Pond said. “[College Coaches] is such a growing and developing program and has so many open doors. It’s going to continue to be very much experimental, responding to the needs of the school. I’m always interested in what we can do differently. We’re so young [as a program].”

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