A season of college access programming is winding down, so what happens next?

Westchester senior Robert, who started college access nights when we were still working out of the SPARC Building, typifies a bright young Angeleno at 826LA.

The past weekend’s successes at the Great Los Angeles Personal Statement Weekend we held with LA’s Promise brought the talents of 184 volunteers to bear helping 12th grade college aspirants from throughout Los Angeles. And those 184 volunteers have been joined by hundreds more over September, October, and November as we brought teams of tutors to in-school programs supporting teachers within giant schools, tiny schools, and everything in-between.

Lured back in by the comfort of our own home bases, we even made workshops a part of the autumn college access season by scheduling evening programs like October and November’s College Essay Crash Course in Mar Vista and Echo Park. 826LA programs are always free, including ones focused on higher ed admission, and we knew that as the deadlines to submit college freshman applications marched steadily closer, young people in our communities would need something that went beyond even the classroom-wide feedback sessions we scheduled by working with their English teachers. We’d need to be versatile enough and generous enough with our time to give motivated individuals help – help they needed to lock up a post-high school future for themselves and make college wishes come true.

Tuesday night in our Mar Vista center and Thursday night in our Echo Park center mark the close of evening sessions serving College Application Essay Crash Course kids: workshop enrollees from our local high school populations. Out of all our kids, these writers got the most raw hours of 826LA support reading and editing their personal statements. After this week’s revisions with 826LA tutors, the workshop participants (mostly seniors, though there are a few juniors and sophomores in the mix) join millions of college-bound kids across the country who are packaging submissions for individual schools.

For many of our students, the big impediment to reaching college is still a financial one: not everybody has an altruistic friend like ScholarMatch waiting to step in. But the personal statement-related writing skills that we’ve instilled in seniors translate remarkably well to the challenge of writing scholarship essays, at least in our experience. And 826 students know that they can always turn to us with questions about the hurdles ahead: our tutors come from all backgrounds and get involved with 826LA for countless different reasons, but it’s not immodest to say that many of them have educational backgrounds and résumés that inspire our kids.

It makes us feel pretty good indeed to close this chapter with our College Application Essay Crash Course writers, who include some of the familiar faces from Tuesday Night Tutoring and even our ’12-13 Writer-in-Residence this year. For each and every one of them, the future is bright! We’ve done powerful work, and we’re proud to show it off.

But college season isn’t quite over for fall ’12, and we’ll be spending the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Thanksgiving doing one-to-one feedback sessions with last-minute help-seekers from our high school audience. We think of it as an early holiday gift to the neighborhoods where we work, and it’s one that will expose us to more great stories from more great kids. Good luck, college applicants! We suspect we’ll see more of you soon.


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