Willamette Week’s Give!Guide is a wonderful thing for many reasons: It raises money for hundreds of nonprofits in our community, it reinforces the importance of philanthropy and it exposes new organizations to new donors.
College Possible is fortunate to have participated in the Give!Guide for the last four years. And it was through the Give!Guide that we came to know Andy and Holly, generous College Possible supporters.
How did you find out about College Possible?
We wanted to give to local social services organizations and figured that the Give!Guide was probably the best resource for finding organizations that were legitimate and good stewards of the funds they received. College Possible was one of the organizations we identified from the Give!Guide that stood out to us because of your organization’s mission.
What about the work moves you to give?
We have benefited from our undergraduate and post-graduation education, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without it and without donors who funded scholarships for us along the way. Although both of us were first-generation college students, we arrived on campus prepared and with the knowledge that we could succeed as a result of the support of our family, coaches, mentors and teachers along the way. We also had the privilege of growing up in suburban communities where the expectation, rather than the exception, is that you go to college after completing high school. We know in many communities, this is simply not the case.
Based on what we read about College Possible, it seemed like the organization is able to fill that gap for high school students from disadvantaged communities – to help prepare them for college and to receive the mentoring that we received and that we feel allowed us to be so successful during college and ultimately in our careers.
What role did mentors play in your path to, through and after college?
We both had strong mentors during college that helped push us toward post-graduate education.
Andy: I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Marie Hoeger-Bement at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and performed research with her. She was a constant source of positivity and always assured me that I could achieve whatever I wanted to. I also received strong mentorship from my dissertation advisor, Dr. Cheryl Stucky, at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She was incredibly supportive, introduced me to a number of important leaders in my field, consistently wrote me phenomenal letters of recommendation, and allowed me to dabble in a number of different activities not directly related to the research we were performing in the lab so I could determine what the next step in my career would be. As I have started my career, she has continued to be a strong mentor and has supported me during each step of my journey.
As a high school student, I had a number of coaches who supported me and pushed me to become a better leader and a better human being. They often discussed my post-secondary options with me and made it clear that the only limit to what I could do was the effort I put in. My cross country coaches had an especially strong impact on me – I was definitely not the most talented runner, but they saw leadership potential in me and named me captain during my senior year. I also had at least one friend who was older than me who helped introduce me to what college entailed and to think more deeply about bigger political and societal topics.
Holly: I performed research with Dr. John Mantsch, with whom I remain close, and received a lot of career advice and mentoring from other faculty members in the Biomedical Sciences Department at Marquette University. I was especially close with Dr. William Kos, who was integral in guiding me through the medical school applications process.
Our parents were also constantly supportive of us. Our parents did not graduate from college, but they made the value of a college education clear, and they expected that we would each graduate with a degree. They did not put any qualifications on what fields we could study, and we were fortunate that they were able to assist with a portion of the tuition costs. Our parents also mandated that we would work during college to help pay for the costs, which we think was very important in helping dedicate ourselves to schooling.
What advice would you give to help students find success in college?
Talk to your instructors! I go so far as to give extra credit to my students when they attend office hours and ask me questions. The reason I teach is because nothing gives me greater satisfaction than seeing my students succeed, especially when they have been struggling – I really want to help students work through their struggles, whether it is a matter of discussing the course content or study strategies.
Also, when applying to college, the “fit” is much more important than the “prestige” of a university. If the culture of the university doesn’t fit with your personality or you don’t feel comfortable there, it is going to make it much more difficult to be successful in your classes.
Thank you, Andy & Holly, for your support! Look for College Possible in this year’s Give!Guide to support Oregon students to and through college.
Andy previously taught and performed research at Pacific University in the School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training and is currently a faculty member at the City College of San Francisco. Holly is the assistant program director and assistant clerkship director for the Emergency Medicine Residency program at Stanford University.