Growing up as the daughter of an immigrant mother, education was my parents’ priority for both me and my brother. I never gave much thought about whether I was going to college or obtaining a degree — I was! Then in 2012, I began working with first-generation, low-income, and, often, immigrant families at Foothill College, a California community college in the San Francisco Bay Area. In this role, I realized that my story was not everyone’s story, and I became passionate about promoting college readiness within these communities.
Fast forward to today, after more than a decade in the field, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how I became college-ready and how I might share, develop, and strengthen these mindsets, skills, and opportunities with others. I am focused on how to dismantle the multitude of barriers that impact first-generation and low-income students.
Currently I work for Chabot College in Hayward, CA, which is also where I call home. I manage two grants: TRIO Educational Talent Search and Hayward Promise Neighborhood. TRIO’s Educational Talent Search (ETS) program specifically supports college readiness for first-generation middle and high school students. Hayward Promise Neighborhood (HPN) is a place-based, cradle-to-career, collective impact grant. One of its focuses is on developing an educator pipeline within Hayward as well as meeting the high need of our ETS school partners that have staffing shortages.
To address these overlapping goals, we came up with an innovative idea: hiring college students to staff our college readiness programs. We began with a small cadre of about 15 students who acted as our program staff. They hosted college and career panels for our youth participants and provided workshops on topics across the college readiness spectrum. They also worked directly in schools to provide academic support to students.
By the end of the first year, we didn’t understand our impact on young people. While we collected attendance data, high school graduation rates, and student anecdotes, we weren’t seeing the impact we expected. We turned to Hello Insight to help us measure social and emotional learning because these outcomes looked and felt right to us —they were more like our staffs’ observations of student change. HI helped us understand our impact on the lives of young people and provided our team with recommendations about how to do it better. But beyond enabling us to measure our impact, I’m proud to say that we have been able to continuously tweak and adjust programming based on Hello Insight pre survey data and create more intentional college readiness programming that supports the whole child.
However, I also needed to focus on the outcomes for our college students, which required that I spend even more time on staff development.
It was clear that we needed to immerse the college students in the Hello Insight framework so that they could understand the importance of social and emotional learning and how to promote it using positive youth development (PYD) practices. I accomplished this by incorporating the PYD practices from the Hello Insight framework into the training and support for our college-student staff. In other words, I used the same best practices with staff that they were expected to use with students. I engaged them authentically by learning about each of their passions and interests and integrating them into the work where possible. I supported them to develop programs based on their diverse identities. For example, they created a program for young Pacific Islanders (Islanders Unite), a middle school program to empower Latinx girls and non-binary students (Chavez Chicas), the Chavez STEAM Team, and many more. Being able to experience these PYD practices within their own work first-hand allowed staff to more effectively develop and solidify their practices.
I also created opportunities for staff to review student data each week which helped them determine how to engage students to meet their unique needs. For example, this summer we discovered that students needed more social interactions and wanted to build more relationships with one another. So, we played multiple learning games and planned a lot of group work.
"SEL surveys are a key component of our program curriculum and are fundamental to planning. SEL surveys allow us to make our program a unique experience for our students and cater to their needs." -College-student staff member
Ultimately, the data we’ve gathered through Hello Insight has enabled all of our college-student staff to answer the critical question: is anyone better off because of my work? We’ve been able to more effectively communicate this work to our stakeholders, enabling us to include statements about our success in college readiness in our reports and infographics.
One partner recently responded to our Summer 2021 Impact Report, saying “I love your work building college-going mindsets and helping students find joy in learning through the pandemic.”
In addition, I coached them in how to talk about the skill sets they developed and the impact they achieved in their resumes, just as we do in our impact reports. For example, a staff member could say that they “co-facilitated a four-week summer program for first-generation middle school students in which 89% saw gains in three of six social and emotional learning capacities.”
Hello Insight became a critical tool that allowed our burgeoning educators to become more intentional about their work, which led to greater youth impact. The framework and data provided our college-student staff with the language to talk about their SEL practices and impact with a greater sense of professionalism. In fact, many have now graduated and are pursuing careers in youth and community development, continuing their social impact.
As I reflect on my own career in college readiness, the most important resource in my own professional development has always been supervisors who took the time to train, mentor, and support my growth. It seems both fitting that I can “pass the torch” to the next generation of change-makers
Tips for Members:
Hello Insight trainings have been super helpful for our staff and have often given our team language for concepts or skills that we knew we were building but couldn’t name.
Set aside adequate time for survey completion. This can take young people 15–20 minutes depending on language ability. We also follow up with students who have missing or incomplete surveys.
Take time to review pre survey data with your team, and invite them to think about how they can bolster and support the recommendations.
Actually showcase your results in reports, infographics, and presentations!
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