Jose Rodriguez is new to Philadelphia after spending three years with College Possible Omaha. He was an AmeriCorps member at College Possible for two years and a Program Coordinator for one more before joining the Philadelphia team. He is pleased to continue working for College Possible and do his part in helping students gain access to and succeed in college. Below is part one of an interview with Jose talking about his journey with AmeriCorps and College Possible.
How’s this year with College Possible going so far?
“Really well. I moved to Philadelphia from Omaha for specific reasons and I feel like those reasons have been met and are going really well. Those reasons being professional development on my end and personal development in Philadelphia.”
So outside of College Possible, Philadelphia as a city, you feel like its meeting expectations?
“Oh definitely, Omaha is a small city with around 450,000 people, and coming from Chicago, it’s a very small city. With Philadelphia there’s always something to do. I’m having a lot fun; it’s unbelievable.”
How does this year compare to your past time with College Possible?
“From a Corps member to Program Coordinator, it was a huge transition. In terms of what’s done behind the scenes for AmeriCorps, you never really see how much is done when you’re a coach. Obviously, staff are supporting the coaches, but there’s so much going on behind the scenes: from projects we run, communicating with the College Possible National office, as well as working with the community. So it was a huge transition moving into the managing level. It was hard to tell people what to do, but other than that it’s been very good. The biggest part I’ve enjoyed is being able to empathize with my coaches. I was an AmeriCorps member for two years and a Junior Coach for one of those. Now, I’m supervising Junior Coaches, and it’s really cool to know where they are coming from.”
Did you feel like you had a lot of support moving up in College Possible?
“Yes, thankfully I wasn’t alone in it. Another AmeriCorps member moved up to the staff level as well, and we supported each other. My supervisor as a coach also got a promotion, so she was in the same transition and still my supervisor. The other Program Coordinators, who oversee AmeriCorps members, were also able to coach me through being a Program Coordinator. They opened themselves up and anytime I had a question I knew who to go to. College Possible is very intentional on making sure to help you understand your role in the organization. They are very deliberate on making you feel as comfortable as possible in your new role, and on top of that I had a great support system back in Omaha.”
What made you want to continue serving with (and eventually working for) AmeriCorps / College Possible?
“In my first term I was in a unique position where I ran a couple of projects, and my first project was student recruitment. I was going to high schools daily and seeing students, and I fell in love with them. Being able to recruit a student and know you’re going to have such a strong impact on their life down the road, that without your support they might not go to college…I immediately knew I was going to stay with College Possible. I was only like three months in, but I knew right away.”
What originally brought you to AmeriCorps / College Possible?
“In college, as a low-income, first-generation college student, I never had a support system in high school, but fortunately found one in college through TRiO student support services [federal outreach and student services programs in the United States designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds]. So my junior year I was really struggling and almost dropped out, but my adviser in the program stuck with me, guided me the whole way, and I really looked up to her. I wanted to be like her when I grew up. In my last year, she knew what I wanted to do, told me about College Possible and sent me the application. I learned more about it and after getting the position really learned about education inequality, what we’re doing, and how it actually matters. And the numbers and results-driven part of it is what kept me in it because it’s clear we are making an impact.”
So you didn’t know about AmeriCorps at all before this?
“No, not at all. It’s funny because there’s an interview question for applicants where you’re asked what national service means to you. I had no idea what they were talking about because I didn’t know what AmeriCorps was, but now I think of members as the oil to our engine. Without the AmeriCorps members, or just AmeriCorps in general, where would College Possible be? I truly think that if you want to do a term of service, AmeriCorps is the thing to do.”