Kenowa Hills — Kenowa Hills High School senior Zoe Paskewicz devotes her time to high school and online Grand Rapids Community College courses, while helping 38 fellow seniors prepare for life after high school.
She sees herself as a familiar face helping her friends.
“I’m already ready for college and have gotten all my stuff taken care of,” Zoe said. “I joined the College Ambassadors club to give back to my senior class and help them pursue college opportunities.”
And it’s not just college in the traditional sense. Club adviser and Transitions Coordinator Katrina Young defines college as “post-secondary education or anything that provides you with some kind of credentials.”
“I think it’s huge for students to get accepted to at least one school, even if they don’t plan to go to that one school. It’s still an accomplishment,” Young said.
Young previously led a group of College Ambassadors at Wyoming High School. Since starting her new role at the high school, she strives to guide students through the college application process and serve as a resource for those figuring out their career goals.
Getting involved in the College Ambassadors club, Zoe realized “there’s a lot more kids that are interested in college than I thought, but then they don’t do anything about it. (Young) came into the school and said ‘we’re changing that.’”
Kenowa Hills High School partnered with GRCC this year to offer the Middle College program to “teach (students) how to be college students” and promote the “college-going culture,” Young said. “This group is helping their peers tackle college applications, apply for scholarships, answer questions and offer support.”
Zoe and her fellow ambassadors also serve as liaisons between students and Young, and arrange for them to meet with Young.
“Our goal is to meet with all of our students before Christmas break,” Zoe said.
Senior Vanessa Barbosa joined the club because she thought a new experience would be fun and help “force me out of my comfort zone to socialize with students more,” she said.
“I think this whole club is a breath of fresh air,” Vanessa said. “I hope to grow the club more and help people feel more comfortable with the idea of going to college. The process isn’t as scary as it seems.”
Young said it was the “best feeling” to meet with a student and afterwards hear them say, “It’s that easy?”
“I say to them, ‘Yup! You did it,” Young recalled.
Recently, Young tasked College Ambassadors Club members with a project called #WhyApply. Students distributed small signs to teachers and asked them to write down their reasons for applying to college. They included pictures of each staff member holding their sign.
“Our hope is to inspire students to apply to colleges but also create connections with their teachers,” Young said. “It’s amazing for students to see their teacher’s reasons for pursuing higher education.”
“There are 229 seniors and I’m one person. Now I have 7 additional arms and they think I’m supporting them, but they’re supporting me.”
“This club gives students a voice in the process of deciding their future and I think it will be something that will continue to grow.”