Last Wednesday, I visited Belmont High School to observe our Guest Speakers PLUS ME program. It was my first time at a PLUS ME event and throughout the first few weeks of my internship, I had only discussed the tasks pertaining to my position as a community outreach intern. Up until that point, I had only heard about the organization’s goals and tasks, but never got to witness them.
As a former staff member of Belmont, I worked with A World Fit For Kids as a coach in their after school program. The scenery was familiar walking through the main building seeing the various murals featuring college and university logos, inspirational quotes, and famous activists. I felt like I was back home seeing all the smiles from the students and staff. As we were waiting to access the presentation room, an odd feeling fell over me. One that I had not felt since my first few days at A World Fit for Kids. “I’m nervous and I'm not even the one presenting,” I muttered to Richard. But why was I nervous? Now that I look back at this moment, I realize this was when PLUS ME was finally coming to life for me.
PLUS ME’s vision and mission resonated with me since I first heard about it. Now that I was at a school with Richard, I knew it was real. As I listened to Richard’s story, what struck me the most was how the students reacted. At the beginning, some of them were, unsurprisingly, not fully focused on the presentation. I could hear some discussing their day, others checking their phones, and a few pointing out how happy they were to be at the presentation because that meant they weren’t in class. However, as the presentation continued, phones were put away, conversations ended, and all eyes and ears were on Richard. Some laughed, others nodded their heads, but most were too focused to show any other nonverbal cue. In that moment, I realized that I was at the right place, with the right people, serving the right organization.
Entering PLUS ME’s retreat this past Saturday, I was nervous once again. This time, I didn’t tell anyone. As I mingled with the many amazing individuals who work selflessly to provide a light for the students we serve, I truly felt the passion, commitment, and realness of this team. The retreat brought together the bright minds of the many who support the organization and made me realize that even as an intern, I too will make a difference. As the evening progressed, I felt that I was no longer in the background, I was an active player in the forefront on this team.
Jose Navarijo is a senior at California State University, Northridge majoring in communications. He is serving as our community outreach intern for Fall 2017 and hopes to one day share his story with a group of students.
It was June 21, 2011, at the Hollywood Bowl. I wore a red choir robe as I sat on the stage looking out into the crowd. The sun was burning my face and I had never been so ready to go. All of a sudden I heard my name coming from the podium speaker, “Jasmine Gibson”, said Principal Hagan. At that moment, I knew my hand would no longer be held, I was officially a high school graduate. The feeling of excitement, optimism and fear came rushing through my body at once. It was a bittersweet moment.
I never thought I was smart enough or capable of earning a college degree. I mean I thought about it, I imagined it, but it was only a dream that felt distant. I decided to give that distant dream a chance.
I enrolled at West Los Angeles College (WLAC) in August 2011. This was my only option because no university was going to accept me with my high school grade point average. Enrolling in college was a big step for me.
I come from a background where higher education isn’t discussed nor attempted. I thought maybe I would eventually drop out of community college because that is what I have seen in my surroundings. Little did I know WLAC would be the pathway to my success, the foundation of my future and the beginning of a new me.
Community college was a strengths test. It built my mental muscle and my perseverance to succeed. I was welcomed by helpful advisors and administrators who helped me navigate through the system, and most importantly, motivated me with assuring words. I was able to earn an associate degree and transfer to a university. After accomplishing what I thought was the impossible, I felt there was nothing I could not do. The world was mine to take.
I transferred to Cal State University, Dominguez Hills. Throughout the first few weeks of being at the university I thought to myself, “what am I doing here?” “what am I to do?” “I made it to a university?”. These were thoughts of disbelief because I was so conditioned in my negative thinking about my capabilities. As the semester progressed my mind began to expand. Expand with knowledge and new ways of thinking. I became innovative, I learned that I am a creative individual and my voice matters.
Sure, these may be things we think to ourselves but college asks that you find yourself, your voice and express it. Now that I am in my final semester of college I look back to 2011 where I first began my journey, and I am thankful for every step of the way. I have become strong, confident and professional through the help of professors, advisors, workshops and my fellow classmates. In high school, they tell you your hand will no longer be held, but what they don’t tell you is, there are people who are on your side pushing you to the finish line.
Jasmine Gibson is a few months away from earning her bachelor's degree in communications. She is serving as our outreach intern throughout the Fall semester.