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December 16, 2020

Student Voices: Insights from the Next Generation of Workers

The future of our workforce is only as strong as the next generation of workers. Students across the nation are achieving their career goals with the help of Promise programs across the nation. Promise students Temara Cross and Celine Rodriguez shared their stories and discussed achieving their career goals with the help of Promise programs.

Temara Cross

Temara Cross is a first-generation college student raised on the east side of Buffalo, New York. She currently attends the University at Buffalo as a fourth-year senior and first-year graduate student, majoring in African-American Studies and pursuing a BS/MPH in Public Health. Cross is a scholar of Say Yes Buffalo, a College Promise program whose mission is to strengthen the Western New York economy by investing in the education of Buffalo’s future workforce.

Since Cross experienced her grandmother’s passing of preventative diseases and general mistrust felt toward the medical industry in her community, she knew she needed to serve others and work in the health field. Following medical school, her career goal is to gain experience as a family physician, then launch a health facility in her hometown. Ultimately, she aspires to mitigate African-American health disparities and minimize the mistrust felt by African-Americans toward the health industry.

“As a first-generation, low-income, Black college student, I have experienced firsthand how imperative it is to have resources available to ensure my academic and career success. I believe it is so important that policymakers and education administration include student voices because we get the direct effects of policies created for us,” said Cross. She says that Say Yes Buffalo has provided her with the resources helping her to get through and beyond college and achieve her goals.

“The things that I'm doing now, they really help toward shaping my career goals and understanding what goes into a health facility. Say Yes Buffalo provided me with the internship and career pathways program and with that, I had an internship at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and there I was studying breast cancer in Black women,” Cross explained. Due to this internship, she will soon be a published author and have the necessary research experience for medical school.

But this doesn’t mean that Cross’s experiences have not come with challenges beyond resources. So how can Promise programs and leaders help students like Temara Cross? Cross says there are three key factors to consider.

First, Promise programs should take into consideration the unique experience of each student. “[They should] make sure they understand that every student's experience is unique. Not every student who comes from a first-generation background may have the same experiences as another person and certain marginalized groups might not have the same issues as other marginalized groups,” said Temara.

Cross also says leaders should keep in mind that success goes beyond the classroom. “There are so 4many things that are on a student's mind when they're going to the classroom, whether it's in college or in high school, things they're worrying about like transportation or maybe the next meal they're going to eat,” she added.

Finally, Promise programs should center student voices. “I think it's really important that leaders should keep in mind student voices because at the end of the day, we are the ones that are most impacted by their grant decisions, their research that they want to conduct, or any policies that they want to implement,” Temara concluded.

Celine Rodriguez

Celine Rodriguez is a first-generation college student raised in Peru. At the age of 14, after 12 years in Peru, she returned to the United States to seek growth and opportunity. She is currently a student at the University of California, Davis. Rodriguez is a scholar of Richmond Promise, a College Promise program and community-wide college success initiative to build a college graduating culture in Richmond, CA.

Rodriguez says her greatest motivation is knowing the sacrifices her parents have made for her. Being separated from her family for many years, due to them being denied U.S. visas, is what motivates her to complete colleges and reach her goals. “It motivates me to fight for justice, for all the families that live far away from each other because of their immigration status,” she said. She is considering pursuing law with a focus on immigration.

“One of the life experiences that I believe has helped to set me up for career success would be me coming to the United States at a young age. It has given me so much independence and also it has led me towards thinking about becoming a lawyer and really focusing on immigration. I think it relates to how my mindset has changed over the years,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez credits Richmond Promise for relieving some burden for her. “As a daughter of immigrant parents, I need to be the head of the household in order to request for their visas or their residencies, meaning that I will have to become independent,” she said. If she had to take on costly college expenses, this would be far less possible.

She wants to share with Promise program leaders, first, how thankful she is to be part of the Promise program community. “It has helped me a lot and it's not just me, I think it has helped a lot of the students,” said Rodriguez. As for advice, she wants to see Richmond Promise and other Promise programs expand. “If more students were able to come with the support, first-generation and low-income students, I know there will be more of us going to college and seeing more diversity.”

This blog post is part of a series of recordings from the College Promise Careers Institute. In November 2020, College Promise held the virtual 3-day summit convening hundreds of our nation's leading practitioners, educators, employers, and thought leaders for sessions tackling the most complex challenges American workers face -- from the rise of artificial intelligence to the role free college plays in maintaining a competitive edge.

Want to learn about upcoming College Promise events? Sign up for our monthly newsletter, State of the Promise.

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