The College Essay Mentoring Project (CEMP) is back. So far this fall we’ve paired 51 community volunteers with students from Madison and Parkrose, but we’re only halfway done. Before winter break, CEMP will serve students from Grant and a new partner joining us for the first time, Woodburn Academy of Wellness, Business and Sports!
This work would not be possible, of course, without our indispensable community volunteers. Any mention of this program should start with gratitude to them, for sharing their empathy and expertise with our students.
In the past year we’ve welcomed a new pool of volunteers into the program: students from Professor David Peterson del Mar’s Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) classes at Portland State University. Our first session together was fall 2019, when the world was pre-COVID. Seniors from Parkrose traveled to the Portland State campus to review their essays with Professor del Mar’s FRINQ students. Since we moved online in the spring, the FRINQ students have continued along with us, providing feedback via comments in shared documents, and recording kind, brief videos of themselves talking through their feedback.
By now previous blog posts have surely spilled enough pixels about the benefits of College Essay for high school students. What about the volunteers? The time spent helps FRINQ students fulfill a service work requirement that is part of the class. Other examples of service work include tutoring or mentoring youth at local public schools and agencies like IRCO. This work can have a life-altering impact.
Professor del Mar explains, “Portland State students are incredibly gifted and intelligent, but they don’t always see themselves that way. Sometimes outside circumstances such as income level or immigration status make them feel ‘less than.’ They don’t see the power of their own skills, until they witness how those skills change their students’ lives for the better.”
This fall two more FRINQ professors have invited their students to volunteer for College Essay. We may be witnessing the start of a virtuous cycle that would be a welcome relief from the type of cycles we’ve seen happening lately.