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College and career readiness services - Steps to the Future

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Ruminations from the Rhode

A Letter to My College Students: Kindness Matters

“Hey, who made the sweet potato and corn soup?” I asked the young worker at the grill counter when I ordered my grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. From off to the side, a growly voice with a hint of a challenge asked, “Who wants to know?”  Taken aback by this response, I hesitated for a minute, and then replied, “I just wanted to give the chef compliment. I love this soup!” “Oh, okay. I thought you had a complaint about it. Usually when someone is asking about something, it’s to complain.”  And, that’s how I met Walter, the head chef in Alumni Hall Food Court at Providence College, where I worked for six years as the counselor-in-residence of the Rhode Island School Counseling Project.

 

Walter is on my mind because I made his sweet potato and corn soup the other day and I couldn’t help chuckling about our first meeting. What I didn’t know at the time is his reputation for being cantankerous and a little ornery. He was both that day but I used my best school counselor skills and from that day forward, whenever the soup was on the menu, Walter would set some aside for me if I didn’t make it to the dining hall before It closed. I still have the container from the last time he extended this kindness.

So what does Walter and soup have to do with going to college? Let me make the connection for you. During your time on campus, you are going to meet so many people and you have the power to decide your relationship with them. Yes, transitioning to a new place is challenging and overwhelms you at times and there will be new experiences and new people.  You will have professors who push you out of your comfort zone by having high expectations of you and then there will be professors who are less than enthusiastic about their subject matter. Maybe that roommate questionnaire you completed during orientation fell a little flat in the selection process and your current roommate is not ideal. That throat-clearing noise is obnoxious, especially when you need to study.  How about your new Biology lab partner who annoys you with his habit of always being late? Then, what if you discovered your Calculus professor, who seems uninterested in his class, had a terminally ill relative? Or that your roommate didn’t know her habit annoyed you because you didn’t say anything. Did you know your Biology lab partner worked extra hours to pay his college bill and the only shift available was on the same day as the lab? I didn’t know Walter had a reputation when I chose kindness in my response to him.

Kindness. We’re in short supply of it these days.

On one of my last visits to Providence College, I went over to Alumni Hall Food Court to say hi to Walter. I’m glad I made the time to visit him because he was moving to another job not at the college. This time I accepted his offer to give me the recipe for Belinda’s Sweet Potato and Corn Soup. You see, after our initial meeting, he named the soup after me because he knew how much I enjoyed it. When I make that soup now, I smile because it connects me to a time in my life that was full of joy.

Kindness matters. Practice it daily.

Bonus - here's the recipe. I hope it makes you smile.

                                         

College Preparation Timeline: 3 Amazing Tips for Reading More!

I walked by Books on the Square during a visit home to Rhode Island with Karen Carvalho-Franks (my bestie, bff, ride-or-die) and of course, we had to go inside. Browsing around through all the stories waiting for me to read, I saw this quote on a linen cloth hanging on the wall and knew I would not leave the store without one. People who know me well are aware of my insatiable habit of buying books, some I read and some I don’t. Piles of books exist at my house to my husband’s dismay (which is putting it mildly).

Taking me to get my first library card at the South Providence Public Library on Prairie Avenue was a gift from my late mother that keeps on giving. By the way, my birthday is in September in case you’re wondering what to get me.

So why all this talk about books and reading? Well, working with aspiring college students always leads to conversations about their reading habits.

 

                                                Dr. B: Tell me what you’ve read that a teacher did not assign.

                                                Student X: What? You mean like a book?

                                                Dr. B (a little exasperated): Yes, a book, a magazine, anything. What have
                                                you read?

                                               Student X (sheepishly): Nothing. I don’t like to read.

Yep, “I don’t like to read” but somehow, this student is going to go to college, stay in college and graduate without any issues. Oy vey!

The Pew Research Center reports  interesting data highlighting reading habits based on income level, educational attainment and place of birth. Their findings do not paint a positive picture on the reading habits of many adults in the United States. With the rise of video-enhanced entertainment, I wonder if reading for pleasure will remain elusive for many people.

This summer, I am encouraging my students to read. I shared several tips with them in this video, but most of all I want them to read. Now, I am working with several students who are readers like me (hooray). One student recommended The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, which turned out to be the perfect book for me as I struggled with establishing better habits (not buying every book that caught my eye). In the meantime, my pile of books continues to grow thanks to my mom’s wisdom of introducing me to the library.

Start, Stop, Continue and Change in 2018

 Resolutions do not work for me. I make them, I break them. Now, I use four words to help me sketch out my coming year: Start, Stop, Continue and Change. Thinking of all of the items on my bucket list (whittling it down slowly), what do I want to start this year? I want my calendar at the end of the year to show fun activities with friends on a regular basis. It may reveal a brunch with my friend Kia Walker on New Year’s Eve day, visiting my BFF, Karen Carvalho-Franks, in my home state of Rhode Island or talking almost daily with my sister from another mother, Antoinette Battiste, as we solve the world’s problems and some of our own. Number 1 on the stop list is negative self-talk. You know that ticker tape of “oh no’s” running through your head when no one is around but your thoughts. I will continue bringing value to families who are taking steps to maneuver through the college planning process. I want to continue seeing the world through the eyes of my “adopted grandchildren” (waiting patiently for my own in the meantime) as we spend time together watching movies or making cookies. Over the Christmas break, the oldest of the four and I watched STEP, a documentary about a step dance from an all-girls charter school in Baltimore. 

What will I change? I will heed something I read recently – “Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” I will put on my oxygen mask first. It is that simple. Will I find that challenging? No doubt. I am counting on you to let me know if you see that mask slipping.

Loving my work as a volunteer with the Chillax Teen program at a local branch library in the Cumberland County Public Library system and maintaining those relationships is high on my list for 2018. Ranging from 6th grade to 12th grade, some of the pre-teens and teens had their own views on stopping, starting, continuing and changing.   Let me share some of their thoughts with you.

A.J. – 9th grade: Start working out; stop not studying as much as I should; continue dancing; change my outlook on friendship.

T.R. – 7th grade: Start reading books; stop getting C’s; continue to be good; change from playing games so much.

W.T. - 9th grade: Start getting all A’s; stop getting B’s; continue getting good grades; change my not so good grades.

D. M. – 11th grade: Start doing my homework in time instead of 1st period; stop procrastinating; continue getting better at math; change more things in my room.

A.D. – 6th grade: Start talking to more people; stop being alone and sitting alone at lunch; continue getting all A’s and B’s; change my hair color.

T.F. – 7th grade: Start doing better in school in my science and math classes; stop talking so much; continue doing good in all of the other classes; change some of the people I’m around.

H.E. – 11th grade: Start studying harder; stop staying up late; continue working hard; change my habits.

I find it fascinating to listen to students reflect on who they are and who they are becoming. I wonder about A.D. sitting alone at lunch. Will that change in the coming year? For many of the students in Chillax, grades are a recurring theme and sometimes, there are spirited conversations about their future selves. Other times, they just want to play games (board, cards and video) with their friends or hang out and talk while enjoying each other’s company. My goal is to give them as many opportunities as they will take to sift through the sands of change, connecting the dots along the way.

What does 2018 hold in store for you? Are you taking steps to live the future you envision? Four short words provide a simple framework. Try them on for size and let me know how it works for you.

Photography Credit: Small Frye Photography

Four Apps for College Planning

New information comes out daily about college planning, from changes in admission policies to paying for college. Keeping up with the constant barrage can be overwhelming. Oftentimes, I wonder how families keep abreast of all the news when as a college planning professional, I find it challenging on good days. Personally, I scour social media, follow influencers, read professional publications, attend conferences and participate in more webinars than I can count. Visiting colleges is a major part of my ongoing education as a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). To date, I’m on schedule to tour about 30 colleges and universities before the end of 2017.

Lately, my self-imposed professional development regimen includes learning about apps to help students plan, prepare and pay for college. My kids at Chillax, a teen program sponsored by one of my local library branches, were trying to teach me the importance of Snapchat but I’m saving that professional development for another day. Four apps caught my attention and I want to tell you a little something about each of them. They are the Daily Practice SAT, Minorities to Majorities™, Scholly and ZeeMee.

Daily Practice SAT. If you know students prepping for the SAT, this app is a great resource at no cost! The first time I used it I became giddy over the possibilities this app presented. I’m a life-longer learner and I get excited about when I have something to share with my students to help them move forward. This app scans, scores and delivers a question and answer analysis for students’ practice tests. Watch this video to learn more about using this app.

Minorities to Majorities™. Jasmine N. Chigbu, Duke graduate and creator of this app envisioned a resource “to provide students, especially ethnic minority, female, LGBT and international students with information about various scholarship, internship, and fellowship opportunities.” Available in the App Store and Google Play, currently there is no cost for this tool. Watch this YouTube video to learn about its features and hear from Ms. Chigbu in her own words.

Scholly. How many of you are Shark Tank fans? I am. I love watching the entrepreneurial spirit come alive during the pitches. Chris Gray pitched Scholly, an app designed to help students at various educational levels to search for scholarships more efficiently, on Shark Tank during Season 6.  For the low price of $2.99, students can download the app, complete their profile and start applying for scholarships. How did Chris do on Shark Tank? Watch!

ZeeMee. Part of the college application process involves college bound students telling their story. This redesigned platform allows students to convey whom they are through 26-second videos and photos chosen by them. Currently, more than 200 colleges are partners with ZeeMee. Do you need more information about this free resource for college admission? Watch Ethan Lin, ZeeMee’s Head of Education give some tips to help you create a video profile to support your college application.

These resources and tools are an opportunity for college bound high school students and current college students at the undergraduate and graduate level to explore the many possibilities open to them.

 

What will you do when the game is over?

I am a die-hard New England Patriots fan. The final minutes of Super Bowl LI was for the history books, though not good for my racing heart. Did I mention that I love the Patriots, the good, the bad and the ugly? Did you notice during the game, one young wide receiver (WR), rookie Malcolm Mitchell, had six receptions for 70 yards breaking a record set by WR Terry Glenn  in 1996? More remarkable than his play during the game, is his story.

 A graduate of the University of Georgia, Malcolm entered college reading at a junior high level. Not content  with his literacy level, during a period of rehabilitation from a torn ACL, Malcolm worked with tutors intensively  to improve his reading skills. Wanting to move beyond his comfort zone, he became an avid reader. One day  he approached a woman in a Barnes & Noble in Athens, Georgia requesting a book recommendation.  Malcolm not only received a recommendation, he also became a member of Kathy Rackley’s book club. He is  the youngest, the only male and the only African- American member of this club and he is proud of it. During  an interview with CBS News, Malcolm proclaimed his pride in becoming a nerd. Never one to be too far from  a book now, he has authored a book, The Magician’s Hat, which encourages young people to follow their  dreams. Best of all, the setting of The Magician’s Hat is a library, one of my happy places (the other is any  bookstore). Continuing his advocacy for literacy, Malcolm created the Share the Magic Foundation, a  nonprofit with a mission to “promote the long-term benefits of reading and book ownership among students in  Title I schools and underserved communities.”

 Malcolm Mitchell is in good company. Let me tell you about another New England Patriot’s work with literacy.  Currently playing for the Patriots as a tight end, Martellus Bennett asks in his Tedx Talk, More Than An Athlete, and “What will you do when the game is over?”(Ah, now you know how this article got its title). Using his creativity, intelligence and imagination, he founded The Imagination Agency, creating a world of characters for children to experience while increasing their literacy skills. , The Imagination Agency’s first book, with its mobile interactive app, allows children to explore A.J.’s adventures making breakfast on her own. I bought the app and played the game! Somehow, I missed some of the bunnies along the way – must try again.

Most importantly, Malcolm Mitchell and Martellus Bennett envisioned a life beyond professional sports and took steps during their careers to make that transition. Let their leadership guide all future student-athletes to consider life off the playing field. 

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