On March 3rd I attended the second of three workshops with the FYLC, this one about using the OpenLab as a tool in the classroom. The discussion ranged from technical to academic concerns, all while trying to bridge the gap between high school and college. At the last workshop the focus was the struggles incoming college students deal with but this time the focus shifted to how to get them involved and engaged in the classrooms. With me at this workshop were the some of the masterminds here at The Buzz, Jill Belli and Phil Kreniske, who helped the audience of professors and faculty, understand the benefits and best practices surrounding the OpenLab.
My portion of this workshop was centered around my use of the OpenLab, how it’s benefited me as a student and peer mentor and how professors can better use the OL to get students excited and engaged with the work. I use the OL for many tasks on campus, like right now as a blogger, but I also use it as a peer mentor to orchestrate and update the FYLC page and of course in my own courses. I love the OL and I love the uniqueness and open concept it represents, versus blackboard which is gray in more than one sense of the word. The OpenLab gives students control, a say in essence, that they don’t otherwise have with academic websites and that makes a world of difference for a student.
As a college student I’ve seen multiple websites and hosts for academia but the OL has got to be my favorite because it in a sense reminds me of a social media platform. It’s colorful and it’s easy to access and connect to my other go to apps. Students are already online, on their phones, so why not make a platform that works seamlessly with a students lifestyle because don’t forget the millennial era student has a much larger digital footprint than previous generations.
This past Friday I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with the First Year Programs office. The focus was around preparing high school students for college and why there is such a disconnect. City Tech faculty, as well as some high school educators were in attendance. Professor Jennifer Sears invited me to sit on the panel as the student voice after being her ENG 1101 classes peer mentor this past fall.
I was pretty nervous to join the panel not only because I was the only student but because at one time I was the student that this particular panel was discussing. My own transition to college was difficult to say the least and I wondered if things would have been different for me had there been so many people trying to fix the problem when it was me who was drowning. I was glad though, that I was able to speak up and represent those students who feel like the system fails them and that nobody really cares if they make it or not.
Being asked to speak in a room full of educators is an honor, but it is also nerve-wracking to say the least. It’s an odd space to be in because although I am a student I am also a professional, having worked in my current job for 6 years as a manager. I can identify with the student struggle with the issues I deal with as a CUNY student but I can also identify the red tape and loopholes large organizations present you with that make it hard to reach every single student.
I used to wonder why I ended up walking the path that I did, albeit some of it was my own doing, I still wondered what fate had in store for me. I think I was meant to struggle a little bit longer because I would eventually be able to advocate for others. For those who can’t or are too afraid I was able to sit on that panel and say this is what’s wrong this is what we can do better for them. Every person is not born with an enormous voice or will power, some have to be nurtured and worked with to get to that point, and if my struggles can help someone else get there, I am okay with it.
Growing up we’ve all faced our fair share of trying times and moments where we desperately needed guidance but couldn’t find it. For myself that time was transitioning out of high school and into college, while becoming a teen mom. I got accepted into a highly regarded and competitive college and quickly found myself sinking, with nobody willing to throw me a life vest. I visited a handful of college offices, advisement, student life and even the counseling center but all they could offer me was a withdrawal slip from my courses. I ultimately did end up dropping out of college and not returning until my mid-twenties.
When I arrived at CityTech I was amazed, even shocked, at how friendly and accommodating the offices and the faculty were and I knew I had found a home here. So in fall 2015 when a good friend brought me along to the end of semester bash for First Year Learning Communities I knew I wanted to join. The First Year Learning Communities are a set of classes that students all have together and that share an overarching theme. For example, this semester I mentor a community that connects English to Psychology with the shared theme of emotions and navigating the challenges of college life.
The Professors, Jennifer Sears and Barbara Chutroo, are amazing and while I’ve only visited students during the English component it is evident the Professors work together for the benefit of the students. That in itself was huge to me because during my freshman year not one professor had the time or the interest in talking to me let alone helping me navigate college life. In addition to the educational value in this program it also provides a very necessary social value, it helps students form communities and channels of support in one another that they otherwise may not be able to create.
In my first two semester of college I made not one friend, not because I was anti-social or terrified of meeting people but because every class was different, everyone’s schedule was different and nobody had the time. In a program like FYLC you get the opportunity to share courses, assignments and experiences with the same group of people and that takes the stigma and fear of saying hello.
I joined the Peer Mentor program not only because I believe in the program’s mission but because I wish I had this resource when I was a freshman. I wish I had someone to email about the little things or for advice on dealing with a professor or precarious situation. I joined this program because I want to be the person I needed when I was a freshman and I want to make a difference. I thoroughly enjoy working with the FYLC and plan to continue until I graduate. I have learned during my long academic career that there is nothing like a strong network, and that’s what I want to help new students build and be apart of.