The following was contributed by Anesa Diaz-Uda, a second-year MPA student.
What makes SIPA so special is the fact that there’s really something here for everyone. In what is arguably the greatest city in the world, SIPA naturally offers a living laboratory in which students can refine their academic and professional interests. Refining these interests happens inside and outside the classroom.
Most of the students here hope to evoke a positive impact within our communities, and I’ve tried to do just that. In January of 2009 I started a new student group of peers interested in mentoring high school students. We forged a partnership with the International Community High School (ICHS) in the Bronx largely because of my connection at the school, but also because the school was an ideal fit for most SIPA students. All of the high school students enrolled at ICHS are recent immigrants to the US. They’ve been living in the US for less than five years, and are all English Language Learners.
SIPA students began our work by first meeting with ICHS administrators, and soon began directly working with the school’s social worker. We then met a few prospective high school students (students who wanted a mentor, and were likely college bound but needed a bit of extra attention). After this initial meeting with the students, the social worker formally paired us with 1-3 high school students. We were paired based on interests (both academic and extracurricular), languages spoken, and general congeniality. Since then, we’ve been meeting with our kids about once a week for tutoring or just to hang out. We also go on group outings – namely to museums and dinners.
In August, I recruited some of the first-year students to the program, and with a few new mentors we’ve been able to work with more of the high school students. It sounds cheesy, but all of these kids really are representative of the American dream. They’re the first generation in their families to attend high school in the US, and the first generation to hopefully attend college.
It was busy in the fall helping them prepare for the SATs and with their applications to colleges, but it was also very exciting.