As the developer and coordinator of the Bryn Mawr Civic Engagement Office's newest venture Adelante, a college access program for Latino middle schoolers in Norristown, Ana Cordova (BMC '13) has a personal connection to the students she serves. When Ana was in high school in Pomona, California, she was recruited by Bright Prospect, a program that "tries to get high-achieving students from low-income families into 4-year colleges and universities - and not only get them into them but also get them to graduate." Through the encouragement, guidance and financial support of this program, Ana applied to 18 colleges. One of them was Bryn Mawr. After attending the accepted students' weekend, Ana felt the decision was easy. Even though it meant a cross-country move, she was convinced Bryn Mawr was the place she was meant to be.
Ana says she feels like Bryn Mawr "challenges you to think differently - in classes, but also in conversations with other students, you're constantly asked to look at a different perspective, and through understanding or asking questions you can develop your own perspective, and somehow you graduate a completely different person - you're just transformed."
A Math/Physics double major, Ana graduated from Bryn Mawr with a "desire to make a meaningful contribution to the world" - a quality she thinks many Millennials possess, leading them to seek out jobs that not only pay the bills but also make a visible social impact. Though she didn't initially anticipate she would find a job after graduation at Bryn Mawr, when a friend passed along the opportunity, "I felt like the job description was basically describing me - to pilot a college access program. I do have some experience with that because I came from one, and I do have some experience with STEM because I am a STEM student, and I am bilingual and Latina - the position just seemed to fit with me nicely."
With the help of school counselors at Norristown's three middle schools and ACLAMO, a partner organization of the CEO, Ana recruited an initial group of 17 students in grades 7-8 and held a kick-off event for them on Bryn Mawr's campus in early December. Students got a campus tour, participated in a scavenger hunt, and attended a college prep workshop where they were presented with statistics about their community. When asked if they felt low-income Hispanic families were less likely to see higher education as an option, most the students disagreed. "But then I talked them about it," Ana says. "Of course they disagree because they wouldn't be in this program [if their families hadn't made it a priority]."
Over the course of 11 sessions to be held this spring starting in January, Adelante students and their parents will learn about what it takes to get into college through STEM-related activities that strengthen their math and science skills, college-prep workshops, and cultural experiences. Ana hopes to take them on field trips to visit other colleges such as University of Pennsylvania, and to follow students through their high school careers and into college. "If there's someone telling them every day, 'you're going to college,' then that just seems like the next step," Ana says. "That's the expectation."
Adelante is looking for volunteers to be tutors and program developers! Find more information about these opportunities here.