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September 10, 2020

You Belong In College: A Webinar for College Students

This blog post is part of a series of recordings for the Student Success webinars College Promise will be holding throughout September 2020.

This week, a panel of students discussed why all students belong in college -- even in a pandemic -- and the services students can take advantage of today to ensure they can thrive throughout the school year.

To kick off a month of student-focused webinars, College Promise hosted an hour-long zoom event titled You Belong In College: A Webinar for College Students. This webinar was held in conjunction with the release of a new report by ETS and College Promise about the unique ecosystems of support that help specific populations of students thrive in higher education.

The webinar was moderated by Karoline Jimenez, one of the three main subjects of the film, PERSONAL STATEMENT, as well as one of the leaders of the #WeBelongInCollege campaign. Jimenez was joined by a panel of experts who serve diverse student populations, including: Amber Angel, Program Coordinator of the Los Angeles Valley College Family Resource Center, an institution serving adult students and student parents; Tia L. Ryans Founding Executive Director of F.O.R.T.E. House, a referral-based program for justice impacted individuals; and Lorena Tule-Romain, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of ImmSchools, an immigrant-led non-profit organization that partners with K-12 schools and educators to support undocumented students and families.

The discussion began with acknowledgement that the first step to serving students is to understand their specific needs. Specifically discussing the students she works with, Tule-Romain said her organization spends a lot of time, "really thinking about what kinds of systems and supports often times leave out undocumented families or students who are trying to pursue higher education or just trying to thrive in this country." Angel noted that “70% of our student parents have lost their job,” and Ryans explained that, “when you are incarcerated, you are in a time capsule. You have to catch [formerly incarcerated students] up before you can actually prepare them for the academic community.”

Despite the varying hurdles each student faces, the panelists shared positive, concrete actions students can take to find support. “I always tell students and even my peers to go talk to the librarians. They know everything! I think they are one of the most unused resources," said Ryans. Angel encouraged students to seek help and ask questions of their colleges and universities, saying, "I feel like there should be no wrong door on a college campus. I don’t think there is any where students shouldn’t expect to get support. I might not have the right answer for you, I’m not a financial aid advisor, but I’m going to know somebody at financial aid." Tule-Romain added that many educators or administrators may not be aware of the kinds of supports and aid that address the specific challenges undocumented students face, so seeking guidance may take multiple attempts. "There will be some frustration with not getting the right answers or the right people who are adequately prepared understand… you can't take no for an answer," said Tule-Romain.

Finally, speaking directly to service providers, each of the panelists offered advice on how best to support students. Angel encouraged providers to go speak to students or share their own personal stories because, “oftentimes it's storytelling and personal connection that draw students that otherwise feel stigma or shame to reach out for help." Tule-Romain urged service providers to "make sure you are supporting them in the places they are, not where you think they should be." Ryans suggested that everyone, "research humanizing language before you approach any population. Using humanizing language is the first step."

The webinar was the first in a series of student-focused webinars. Next week two more webinars will be held, a College Planning Virtual Workshop on September 16th and a Wellness and Mental Health Virtual Workshop on the 17th.

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