This post was written by Cynthia Vele ’17
The Upstate Institute granted me the opportunity to work as a Summer Field school Fellow with the youth of Utica: a largely migrant-populated community. I came into this job knowing that education was not as accessible as one might assume, and for those children that come from refugee families, families with less schooling, etc., it is close to impossible. In a society where meritocracy has been proven myth and those with social, economic, and political privilege are given preference over other groups, these children have always had to deal with the odds being against them. Luckily, organizations like the Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program have been created to cater to the needs of these children who lack the necessary resources and opportunities that other more affluent children tend to have. This issue is a systematic one and cannot be solved by simply investing money into programs and yet it is most definitely a step in the positive direction.
The Young Scholars LPP provides summer schooling by college professors, opportunities for early college visits, homework help, community service opportunities, mentorship etc., as early as the sixth grade. The select group of students from both Donovan Middle School and JFK Middle School receive these benefits until they reach their senior year at Proctor High School. The purpose of this program is to ultimately provide support for the student until he/she graduates and to make higher education possible through scholarships given by the Community Foundation specifically for Young Scholars graduates. My job at the Young Scholars office located at Utica College was to investigate how many of these alumni received a degree(s) in higher education after graduating from Proctor.
Initially, I struggled with figuring out ways in which I could gather evidence of college completion and degree verification. I had used methods such as emailing different universities that abided by the FERPA law stating that certain student records can be given upon request. I had also turned to using social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn to contact alumni and acquire information directly from the student. However, the most convenient form of gathering this information was through the National Clearinghouse, which held these exact records. Along with personal record organizing and creating graphs, I was involved in helping out during the summer program whether it meant hands on assistance or office work at UC. Students in 6th to 8th grade must remain over the summer and take classes not offered in high school. This year, students conducted their own research and modeled a college-type science fair for their presentations.
Young Scholars provides family support and hope beyond high school. With the data I collected that confirms the impact that Young Scholars has on their future, the program is ensured donations from different organizations like the Community Foundation for years to come. I thank the Upstate Institute for giving me the opportunity to work with such resilient youth.