I was more anxious than excited to start college. What kinds of people would I meet here? What was I going to learn? How was I going to “make the most of college,” as so many people had advised me? On top of these questions, I planned to commute for the first time and would begin my first quarter with nearly 20 units. I didn’t know what to expect.
Fortunately, the Leadership, Excellence, and Academic Development (LEAD) Scholars Program—part of the Santa Clara University Honors Program designed specifically for first-generation college students – allayed my concerns.
The program’s goals are to ease the shift from high school to college, build community, and promote leadership. Only 60 or fewer students are chosen every year based on grants or scholarships. Needless to say, I was honored to join the program.
As a LEAD Scholar, I’ve gained the tools to succeed academically.
I’ve picked up tips on good (and bad) study habits. I’ve tutored, and have been tutored, in various subjects. I’ve discussed and researched career options with my peers. And I’ve learned how to present my ideas and opinions in group discussions and in formal presentations.
I attribute much of my success to the LEAD Scholars program: my second place win in the First Year Critical Thinking and Writing Contest, being invited to the University Honors Program, and being accepted on transfer to the Leavey School of Business, wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been exposed to the program’s various offerings.
I’ve also participated in team-building exercises, and become acquainted with the struggles people face in college and in life after college.
Through LEAD, I’ve met people from different places and cultural backgrounds—all of whom have had various challenges coming here and staying here.
We’ve discussed the term “color blind racism,” or the ideology that racial differences are not recognized at all, arguably removing part of a person’s individual identity. Because of this, I now understand how to both acknowledge and respect cultural differences.
I’ve finally interpreted what it means to “make the most of college”: for me to leave my lasting, positive impact at SCU.
Not everyone starts off on equal footing. LEAD has made me aware that I play a critical role in giving back. How? By making our communities more inclusive and giving a voice to those who face inequality.
Every spring, LEAD selects peer mentors and educators for LEAD freshmen. As I transition into becoming a LEAD peer educator, I look forward to helping others find their tools for success.
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