Back to school, back to school, except this time, I’m the teacher. A couple weeks ago I got a call from Junior Achievement asking if I would teach a class on ‘resume building’ to low-income high school students. The achievement gap in Minneapolis (the worst in the nation) is an issue close to my heart, and so I immediately volunteered.
I remember visiting my high school guidance counselor to learn the ins and outs of financial aid. When I presented a transcript loaded with AP course and A+ marks, she asked if I was vying for the valedictorian spot.
“No – I just really need a scholarship.”
“Well then – you’re working too hard. Why don’t you drop the AP courses and take some fun classes? Do you like ceramics or cooking?”
“Will that make me appear more well-rounded to the financial aid committee?”
She chuckled and explained that any of the community colleges in the area were already in the bag. “You’ll probably get a full-scholarship, so why worry?”
I told her I wanted a scholarship to a university.
She looked forlorn, explained that scholarships were competitive and unlikely, and told me that I might be better off working and saving money.
A few days later, my favorite English teacher sat me down and taught me how to apply for funding at various universities. I ended up getting a scholarship to my top pick.
Looking back, I’m grateful and thankful and all sorts of appreciative that Mrs. Miller took the time to make a difference. Now, 10 years later, I’m working to do similar things for the teens in my community.
And, can I tell you what? It’s amazing what a difference you can make in a day. I know I was only talking about resumes, but when I asked the class the top 2 things that should be on a resume, the first words out of their mouth were “birthday!” and “ethnicity!”
Woah, cowboy! Time for class.
I held a Q&A session at the end of each class, and I was humbled by the sweet and sincere questions the students asked: Can I wear casual clothes if I’m a dog walker? Is it unprofessional to ride my bike to interviews?
People often talk about wisdom they wish to give their younger self. To be honest, there isn’t any particular advice that I think would have helped me.
What I do dream about, however, is going back to my most vulnerable moments – times when I suffered so much I felt nearly hopeless – and saying “feel this – this goodness is what’s coming to you.” How I wish my younger self could have know that the pain and confusion would lead to a joy beyond comparison.
And that joy that I’m talking about it – it’s not just for confused or scared high school students — it’s for anyone struggling to get somewhere, how do we say, lighter. Whatever you’re going through, remember how quickly things can change for the better, and have faith in yourself and others that good things are coming.