Back to School...and the importance of a "net"

 New Scholar Sedella, her son Kirabel, and her Sponsor Alex 

New Scholar Sedella, her son Kirabel, and her Sponsor Alex 

Here at Generation Hope, “back to school” is a busy time for us! Fresh off of the excitement of welcoming our biggest class yet, comprised of 22(!) young mothers and fathers attending college in the DC metro region, we set about making sure that all of our Scholars, new and returning, are completely ready to go for the fall semester.

For most parents, back to school means that it’s time to buy new binders, notebooks, and maybe a special outfit for the first day. For our Scholars, back to school can be a bit more complicated. Back to school for our Scholars means registration, financial aid, childcare, employment, paperwork, and so much more!

Last year, I started meeting with each Scholar-Sponsor pair individually at the beginning of the year to help them wade through the myriad items that needed to be addressed to set up a successful semester. While scheduling those meetings has become a bit more challenging now that we have 37 Scholars, it is also one of my favorite times of the year because it is the only time that I get to see each pair in action, individually, and have in-depth conversations with each of our Scholars about their plans and goals. In these meetings we discuss career and academic planning, transportation, childcare, health concerns, housing, family challenges, budgeting, school supplies, and more (I bring a large spreadsheet!)—we try to think about every element of their lives that needs to work together in order to make college success a reality. I love watching the Scholar-Sponsor pairs problem solve together and seeing everyone’s excitement when a Scholar has reached goals we set last year. Whether it’s moving from taking 6 credits to 9, getting a child enrolled in daycare for the first time, successfully navigating a bureaucracy, passing a placement test, getting a driver’s license, or resolving a custody issue, it is amazing to see what our Scholars are accomplishing in their drive to accomplish their goals.

It’s heartening and gratifying to see how much it means to our Scholars to have their Sponsors and the Generation Hope family behind them in this journey—this year, I’ve found myself frequently repeating, “Remember, it’s not like you’re swinging through the Grand Canyon without a net.” We know that our Scholars are capable of doing this, and that net can be the difference between a stumble and a fall.

The sad reality is that overall, less than 2% of women who have a baby by age 18 have a college degree by age 30. Our Scholars are changing that statistic. With incredible courage, they step over the edge, confident that with their skills, dreams, and drive, and the help of a safety net, they’ll make it to the other side. 

-Caroline Griswold Short, Program Manager