A leading college success nonprofit in California, 10,000 Degrees® helps students from low-income backgrounds get to and through college. One of their mottos is “We Help Make College Dreams Come True”. Volunteer mentors, corporate partners, high schools and 10,000 Degree alumni become one degree of change by supporting each student enrolled in 10,000 degrees.
One-hundred percent of the students in the program are low income backgrounds. 85% are first in family to attend college. 83% are students who are people of color. And, thanks to comprehensive personal support, college advising, and financial aid management, over 80% of 10,000 Degrees four-year college students earn bachelor’s degrees, compared to 31% nationally. The staff know that starting a college mindset begins early so they begin work in elementary and middle schools to nurture love of learning and help young students envision a path to college.
As I sat with my student for the first time, we were both nervous. We began our conversation looking for what we had in common and at first fumbled through some areas we did not have in common. He plays soccer and is very competitive. I was a dancer and did not play any team sports. He is amazing at math; I always struggled through math. I think we both were thinking; why did they pair us together? As we dug deeper we happily started to find our common themes.
- He cares for his siblings after school and needs to get home after soccer practice. I cared for my mom during high school and went home to help prepare meals, do errands, and take care of the house and yard.
- I grew up spending many weekends with my family, he spends his weekend with his siblings and parents.
- He is interested in civil engineering, I taught physics to middle school students through engineering lessons. In my physics class, students built bridges out of straws, spaghetti noodles and newspaper. My 10,000 degree student is going to design bridges and roads after college.
- I loved to play soccer in high school because my Spanish teacher, a professional soccer player from Chile, would teach us Spanish by playing soccer. I admitted I learned more about soccer than Spanish. He plays soccer year round on school and town teams.
- His dad and mom work really hard to support their family, so did my parents.
- He wants to get better at writing, I love to write and have supported writers from grades 6 through Graduate school.
- I went to college. He is going to go to college.
As we navigated our first conversation, it became clear to me that we could build the foundations of a relationship. It looks like we will begin with my cheering at soccer games and helping with writing essays for English class. After that maybe a field trip to meet a civil engineer and a visit to a college campus. We’ll find our way because he wants to go to college and I believe in creating the support system so he will be accepted into a school where he will thrive.
10,000 Degrees offers support to students who never thought they’d go to college. They offer college advising, financial aid support, year round mentoring, and overnight college immersions. Each step of the way the college vision is built, a plan is put in place for applying to schools, and relationships are built between people who discover their common bonds by sharing stories of opportunities, challenges, and successes.
Are there places in your community where you could be supporting first generation college students? Volunteer mentors are always needed and you too will become one degree of change.