Goodbyes and Continued Work

Yesterday was my last day at Northland High School, but not by my choice. I have come down with the flu and have spent the past day and a half in bed sleeping and coughing.

I’ll miss working at Northland. Although the workshops were not as well attended as I and the guidance counselor had hoped, it still feels successful. The guidance counselor hoped I or another college student would do a similar program again next winter. We had ended up not doing a career/college access fair because it was simpler to just send students to the ones an hour away near walker and grand rapids. The students did receive a lot more info on the college access resources the school did offer though during workshops and classroom visits, so that was one good result of the program. The timing had been the hardest to figure out because it kept conflicting with highly-attended classes: so hopefully next winter the scheduling won’t be so bad or the workshops could be made mandatory so that students don’t have to choose between class and the program. I also sent out a survey to the students to find out what the strengths and problems of the program were, so that it can be improved next time.

I met with Brody and Ben yesterday, and finally I have a picture of these camera-shy high schoolers:



In the workshop, we went over how to build resumes to discover skills and personality traits that they might not realize that they have. They were really engaged and we had a quite a bit of fun creating resumes for hypothetical situations and pretend people. We talked about how everyone has different skills and different circumstances, and we discussed the extremes that some people would go to for school. After I explained that resumes could actually be used to apply to scholarships and not just jobs, they started to see how this would help them in college. Then, they were convinced that they didn’t have any skills or achievements to put on their resume, but, after some reflection exercises, they found their strengths: Marine-life enthusiast, Varsity Football Player (every year during high school), etc. They were still asking questions when the bell-rung.

Before I left, they wanted some help with test-prep because they run out of time or get discouraged when they don’t know how to do a problem. I gave them some materials and advice on those sorts of problems, and we’ll be emailing to find out how that goes. I need to email a senior I saw the other day about gap years and community service programs since he hasn’t applied to college and doesn’t know what to do. It’s nice that, even though the program is over, the students still are asking me questions. I’m going to miss doing workshops with them, but I know we’ll keep in touch. It’s almost like I’m not saying goodbye. More like, “hello, how are you doing?”


Photos of random things around the high school:



in the school office in order to encourage studentsImage

one of the college and employment fairs the school will take the students toImage


Bilingual Sign for the girls’ bathroomImagePreparing for one of the workshops and letting students browse some college access books


Students! Time Management and Gap Years

(Sorry about the late post. I’ve been pretty busy for the past few days.)

I went up to Northland on Thursday, and three or four students came to ask me questions throughout the day. Two of them asked their teacher to let them out of class, so that they could talk to me for an hour. These two were not terribly sure if they wanted to go to college. One of them was pretty set on a technical college because he enjoyed working on physical projects and there are several opportunities in this area for technical work. The other student was a senior and had not applied to college. He told me that he did not know if college would be worth the effort since he did not know what he wanted to do. He knew he could get some jobs in the area without going to college, but he did not know if that was what he wanted. I told him about gap years and how there were community service programs and scholarship/grant opportunities for other students like him. I told both of them that they did not have to go to college straight out of high school and that it was okay to not know exactly what they wanted to do.

They shared a lot with me. I learned a lot about where the animosity towards the Native American students came from for them. They felt like the Native American students were getting more opportunities than them because there was an office of “Indian Education” in the school and they felt like the school valued the Native American students more than them. It was hard to hear them talk about this or respond to their feelings without coming across as judging them, but I think the students are starting to trust me. We switched the conversation to what sort of opportunities they have, and I hope they’re beginning to see how everyone has different options and how we often only see the good things other people have and not everything they’ve been through. I’m not sure they really got it, but I gave them some ideas about reasons to go to college and how to start thinking about their goals and priorities. They said they would come back to talk more.


The time management workshop went well too. The student from the other day came in and I got to see how he spent his day via pie charts and hourly schedules. He was really surprised about how little time is spent in class each day at college. We talked about testing too since he had just taken an MCA (I think that’s what he said) and how important the ACT can be for getting scholarships and grants from colleges. I gave him a list of colleges with pretty good environmental studies and biology programs, and also talked to him about coming in and getting some test-prep time since the school doesn’t offer much as far as study skills for juniors and seniors. He was rather excited but also pretty stressed about the tests. I’m going to send them all emails later today with more info about gap years, colleges they might like, and test prep. I’m pretty excited.

Campus Visits Workshop: Low Attendance, but Encouragement


This is the entrance to the high school. I forgot my good camera, so I took this on my phone.


I had a long day up at the high school. Not many students peaked into speak with me about college, but I did a workshop about Campus Visits and how important it is to choose the right college. Due to bad-timing during the school day and it also being finals week: there was only one student there. However, he was really interested and told me about his reaction to BSU (Bemidji State University) and how he felt his only option left was UMD (University of Minnesota at Duluth). He described himself to me as a hardworking farm boy wanting to be a marine biologist because of his love of nature. I told him about some smaller colleges in Minnesota that had environmental studies programs and good student support services. Since those seemed to be his main concerns with UMD. He hadn’t heard of any of those colleges before, so he seemed pretty happy that he had more options than he had thought. I guess that’s all I can do: show students how many opportunities there are.


(Tomorrow I’m leading a workshop on time management in the afternoon. It’ll be at a later time which doesn’t conflict with as many classes, so I hope more students will attend.)

Visiting with the Juniors and Seniors

Yesterday was my first day up at the school talking to the Juniors and Seniors. The guidance counselor and the teachers seemed very excited. They constantly referred to me as “the real life college student!” My public speaking skills are a little rusty since moot court ended, but I warmed up as I went along and saw a couple friendly faces in the crowd. I spoke to three groups answering as many questions as I could, and I made it very clear that the students could ask me anything. The first group had eleven seniors who were very concerned about alcohol, drugs, and dorm life. They seemed pretty undecided about going to college. The second group had mostly juniors who were very focused on the academic aspects of the experience, but to the point that they ignored anything having to do with the rest of college life. They did devour the packet of materials that I had prepared, so hopefully they’ll come to see that there are more aspects to college than just academics. The third group was composed of juniors who were interested in what kind of soft skills you could gain from college and what life was like for a first generation college student. I was happy to share advice about making friends and living far from home. Of course, this group wanted to know what was my most embarrassing moment at college (fyi Sexy Training) and how I handled it. After the room died laughing, I explained that although college can be crazy and a lot of fun, you have to make sacrifices — time, money, family — because ultimately it is all about your future and what you want to do. I overheard the students talking about me in the halls, pointing out to others which room I was in, saying: “You could go there if you want to talk about college.” I hope they’re just as enthusiastic about attending the rest of the workshops. I’ve arranged a few topics to start with: Campus Visits (to discuss social life and financial aid), Time Management (to give ideas about new ways to manage academic and other responsibilities), Interviews and Resumes (to help with scholarship searches, work-study jobs, and networking), and Choosing Classes (to explain the very different procedures in college and help them choose an advisor and a major). I was exhausted when I arrived home yesterday after spending seven hours up at the school. With a lot of effort and some luck, maybe this will all work out.

Beginning and Returning: Northern Minnesota

Northern Minnesota

I’m in Northern Minnesota again. In a week, I’ll be up at Northland High School in Remer working on a college access program. It’s been years since I’ve been there. (Although I was homeschooled, I visited that public school occasionally for tests and such.) The guidance counselor seems glad that I’ll be back to help the students find colleges and jobs. I bought most of the materials I’ll need while I was in the cities: ink, paper, and folders. It’s amazing how quickly $100 disappears in OfficeMax. I tried to be sustainable  — most is recycled or reusable. I bought 72 paper folders: that should be enough for most of the 10th-12th graders. It’s a small school (about 390 students total in K-12), but serves a wide area. It has some college access resources already, but they haven’t been utilized to much effect by students in recent years. I talked to a few who went to 4-year colleges, several who chose not to go at all, and many who go to the community college because of confusion about financial aid. So I’ve been designing a series of workshops for the past few months around paying for, and succeeding in, college.

I’m very excited to start in January and rejoin this community!!!