We are discovering that one of the strengths of our program is that all of the interns and mentors have lived in East Palo Alto. It really makes a difference for the interns to know that they share a neighborhood with their mentors, especially since there is a lack of college graduate role models in their lives. We started off the orientation by each sharing what we liked best about living in EPA, and it was encouraging to be able to reflect on the many of the assets of a community that is often only viewed in terms of its problems. The ice was quickly broken, and everyone easily transitioned into a time of getting to know each other, exchanging contact information, and setting up first meetings. The mentors are taking a lot of initiative and getting creative with their meeting times, with dinners, trips to Stanford, and skateboarding lessons all in the queue for mentorship time!
This week marks the beginning of the program, with our interns beginning their weekly responsibilities, which include tutoring elementary school students in the neighborhood, meeting with their mentors, writing reflective blog posts, and coming to drop-in tutoring to receive homework help. So far, all of our interns have demonstrated immense maturity and responsibility, and we are excited to see each of them grow and develop over the course of this school year.
In closing, one of our interns expressed on his blog post for this week that he wants to become more involved in the community and "develop as a leader." It is encouraging to hear that our teens see themselves as potential leaders and that they care about their communities. Our long-term goal with the program is not simply to empower the teens to attend college and to achieve a level of academic and personal success, but to grow their commitment and dedication to serving their home community. Having grown up in EPA, they are the individuals best-equipped to transform and change it, and we are excited to begin giving some of the tools to do this!