Young Women Rock! Goes to College

 The Young Women Rock! College Visit is one of the most important events the mentees in the YWR! Mentorship Program attend. The college campus visit help the young women in our program understand what to look for in a college, but more importantly, it allows them to be able to visualize themselves on the campus of an ivy league university, something they are often not pushed to apply for. On Friday, May 4th, the young women in our program and their mentors arrived on the New York University campus for a three-hour long event, which included a campus tour, followed by a panel discussion with eight female professors of color, and concluding with an arts showcase prepared by the YWR mentors for their mentees.

The tour began in the Gould Welcome Center where we walked to the Kimmel Center, the NYU student center, or as our guide put it, “the vertical quad.” The girls – some just freshman in high school, and others juniors – were in awe at the large marble staircase in the center of the building, and by the views from each floor. On the 7th floor of Kimmel, overlooking Washington Square Park, midtown and the Empire State building through floor-to-ceiling windows,our guide went into detail about student life at NYU. Our girls had a list of questions for our guide, which she happily answered.

The YWR! Co-Director, Bianca, and myself were also able to share our knowledge, experience and insights in regards to NYU, our alma mater. From Kimmel, we walked to the Silver Center, where many of the College of Arts & Science classes take place. While sitting in a lecture hall at New York University, where I had many classes, our girls were informed about financial aid options and the standards of academic achievement at NYU.

Upon wrapping up the campus tour, I escorted the young women to the NYU Department of Social and Cultural Analysis in Cooper Square, where Betts Brown (Assistant Director of Internships and Curricular Integration) and Professor Saldaña (Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis; Director of Latino Studies) had graciously offered their space on the 4th floor for the panel discussion portion of our event. The room was filled with excited and interested teenagers: the girls in our YWR! mentorship program as well as the girls in the LOVE mentorship program directed by Claudia Espinosa.

The panel of eight professors included (from left to right in the photo below): Dr. Alisha Ali (Associate Professor of Applied Psychology), Dr. Sheril Antonio (Associate Dean, Film, TV, New Media, and the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music), Professor Niyati Parekh (Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Public Health), Professor Nadia Sultana (Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing), Dr. Alma J. Carten (Associate Professor of Social Work), Professor Yvonne Latty (Journalist, author filmmaker and professor in NYU’s Journalism Institute), Professor Helena Hansen (Assistant Professor of Anthropology), and Professor Maria Saldaña.

What is it like to be a woman of color in a prestigious university?This was one of the many questions the young women in the audience were eager to know, along with questions on the best internship, college essays, and overwhelming tuition costs. The panel, who related to the struggle of both being a woman and of being a woman of color in specific, were able to share stories about being in a university – as a student, and later as a professor – where the school of thought was more often than not white-male-centric. The professors gave incredible insight into the stepping stones that lead to college acceptance. Professor Hansen focused on the importance

YWR! mentees speaking to poet, Arielle John, after the end of visit arts showcase.

of having a strong support system when applying to college, attending college, and graduating from college; she noted that this support may or may not come from your family. On the topic of internships, Dr. Alisha Ali gave some great advice: if you want to go to medical school, your internship in high school need not be at a medical center per se. College admissions boards look to see if a student shows a passion and drive towards their proposed major. For instance, if a student knows a family member or friend who’s older relative receives in-home care, it may be an excellent idea and illustration of ambition and compassion, if the student were to offer to look after the elderly person for a few hours each day or week. Dr. Ali gave similar advice in regards to the college essay. It is most important that you find a creative way or angle to demonstrate your potential, your motivation, and your curiosity.

In closing the discussion, the panel offered one more significant, and often overlooked, fact: Private colleges offer more financial aid than state colleges. Professor Saldaña urged the young women that their reason for not applying to their dream college should not be financial aid or tuition-related. The fact remains, that the majority of students that graduate are in debt with student loans they can hope to repay in a decade, if they are lucky. However, if a student attends a top university, their chances of receiving a high salaried job are much higher, and thus the time it takes to pay off the student loans will be much shorter. The panel inspired the young women who were fully engaged throughout the duration of the discussion, and they reaffirmed the young women’s belief in themselves and desire to follow their dreams, no matter the obstacles in place.

To view the photo album from this event, click here.

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