I am the anomaly in the TIA Student Incubator this year. While most TIA participants are in their prime Colgate years, I am not taking the course as a current student, but as an alumna. I graduated from Colgate in 2012 with a BA in Peace and Conflicts Studies. After graduating, I moved to Baltimore and fell in love with this city. I became inspired by all the potential Baltimore City has to offer. In the peak of being enthralled with this city and happy about the direction my life has taken, I began to think back on my journey and how I got to where I was.
I come from an immigrant family. Although my mother instilled in me early the notion that I would attend college, I would have never even known to consider attending a college such as Colgate University without the assistance of the various programs that I was a part of through my middle and high school educations. I was fortunate to participate in a program that prepared high achieving, low income middle school students for private high school, increasing my chances of applying to and being prepared for a private college. During high school, I had the amazing opportunity to hold long term volunteer positions and internships, boosting my resume. When I was accepted to Colgate, I was also able to participate in a program called OUS, which helped to prepare me for the rest of my college career.
While I was a student at Colgate, when TIA first came to existence, I desired to participate in the course; however, it never seemed to coincide with my schedule. Now, a couple of years out of Colgate, I began to envision a project that I wanted to see through based on all of the aforementioned experiences I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to have. While looking at my own past and at the potential future of Baltimore, ENGAGE developed in my mind. ENGAGE (Empowering the Next Generation, Advocating for Greater Education) is a college preparatory program for Baltimore City public high school students which would also give them the opportunity to become politically and socially active in their communities. As my idea was developing, I thought, what better place to get support and knowledge than TIA?
Participating in TIA this year as an alumna has been nothing short of a challenge. In addition to a couple of other obligations, I have a full time job as an AmeriCorps Choice Service Learning Fellow, which takes on average 60 hours of my week. The shortage of time and the 6 hour car ride to Hamilton each way (often times starting at 3am day of the class) have made TIA demanding. However, I continue to go back every month because, just as challenging as the class has been, TIA has definitely been rewarding. Not only have I met and connected with numerous inspiring and motivating Colgate graduates and entrepreneurs, but I have also learned a great amount about how to develop a successful project. Although other constraints have prevented me from making as much progress as I would have liked on my venture this year, I now have the structure, the knowledge, and the support to push myself to new limits to make my vision a reality. Without TIA, I would still be thinking about my project without even knowing how to make the first step. With TIA, I now am confident that I can make ENGAGE a viable and successful program.
Editor’s note: When Olivia first contacted the TIA team about the possibility of participating as an alumna, we were unsure whether this would work. We decided to trial the option with Olivia and it has been a positive experience for everyone involved. There are challenges as Olivia discussed above, but while the TIA Student Incubator will continue to be student-focused, we may consider taking a small number of alumni each year if there is interest.
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