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Forever Grateful for My Support System – Family, Friends, and Johnson Take Stock

The following is an essay from a student in the Johnson Take Stock Program. She shares her story and path to college as 2020 comes to a close.

First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Shelly, and I will hopefully be the first to go to college in the United States in my family because they did their education in Cuba. I came when I was 7 years old, and at that time I was in second grade. Then I went to middle school and now I am a junior at Forest Hill High School. I have many colleges that I would love to go to, such as UM, UCF, FIU, and many more. I would love to go to a college near home so I could see my grandparents as much as possible. My goal is to make myself and them proud of everything I hope to achieve.

Additionally, going to college would mean so much to me and my family. I have always worked hard and tried my best in school by always doing well in my classes and being involved in school activities. Getting a good education is the best opportunity ever given to me. I can use this to have a good career that I enjoy and that will never make me stress about not having enough money to pay the bills. Growing up in a not the wealthiest family brings many life lessons that open your eyes and encourage you to take your education seriously so that you don’t have to go through the same thing your family did since you were given a better chance. This is why going to college would mean so much to me. I will have a stable future that I hope will allow me to give back to those who gave to me. These life challenges and many others help me shape my values and open my eyes to appreciate everything I have around me because not everyone has the same opportunity or conditions.

Furthermore, my goal is to find as much financial help to pay for college, so that neither my family nor I will need to stress about paying for my education, and that’s why I am so grateful to be part of the Johnson Take Stock family. They have supported me in many ways. I am grateful for all the activities, workshops, community service opportunities, events, etc. that Johnson Take Stock lets me be a part of. They always teach me something new, and I enjoy going to them since I have a fun time. I joined Johnson Take Stock back in my freshman year, and I have met so many kind people who just want to genuinely help you. Thanks to Johnson Take Stock, I know that if I keep following my side of the contract they will help me pay for my first years of college, and this is the biggest support I could ever receive from them. My other support systems are my family and friends. They help me make decisions, and this is a big help because I am so indecisive. They motivate me to keep working hard because it is all worth it at the end of the day. They also support me by congratulating my achievements which makes me feel good. Another support system I have are my teachers and guidance counselors because I know they are there for me if I ever need to talk to someone, and they just want the best for their students.

In conclusion, going to college would mean a lot to me and my family, and that is why I will always keep working hard to reach my goals. I am forever grateful for my support systems which are my family, friends, Johnson Take Stock family, and the staff at my school. All of the challenges I face will always just make me stronger so I am grateful for those, as well.


Shelly Cruz is a junior at Forest Hill High School. She has been a participant in the Johnson Take Stock  Program since her freshman year in high school.

 

 

More Than a Statistic: How Nebraska Indian Community College Students Redefine Success

By Megan M. Miller

The following article first appeared in Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education. It is shared here with permission.

Empower your tribal community to grow their own food sustainably. Find your career calling as you celebrate three years of sobriety. Earn a tuition waiver to continue your education. Complete a semester while undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Teach your grandson his Native language. Feel connected to your culture for the first time. These accomplishments are no small feat. Yet, they are just a few examples of the success and strength of so many students at Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC). Through resiliency and grit, tribal college student achievement encompasses something much larger than standard institutional measurements of grade point average, enrollment headcount, and graduation rate. For tribal college students, success is as much about achievements made outside the classroom as within.

NICC, like many other tribal colleges, is redefining success through its students. How students view success differs immensely. Each individual has a different path, strengths, challenges, and goals for their future as well as that of their tribal community. NICC’s campuses are located in Macy on the Omaha reservation, Santee on the Santee Sioux reservation, and in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Serving the Umonhon (Omaha), Isanti (Santee Dakota), and other learners, NICC shares stories highlighting students’ accomplishments that extend well beyond the classroom. Through cultural identity, community connection, and goals for future generations, NICC students holistically define what success is for themselves, their families, and their tribal communities.

Nakomis Merrick

Nakomis Merrick (Umonhon) is a freshman at NICC’s South Sioux City campus. “In the past, I thought of success as being able to complete the task quickly,” Merrick says, but adds, “No matter how long it might take, the completion of something is still an accomplishment.” Indeed, many successes are not strictly linear, but rather part of a life-long process. Merrick, who is interested in teaching Umonhon or becoming a social worker, explains this new perspective since attending NICC: “As a graduated high school teen, I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. . . . I lacked motivation. The classes at NICC eventually gave me purpose and helped me have a better understanding of who I am and where I come from. This made me want to continue [my] education at the college, because I’m finally getting the answers I’ve been searching for.”

Read the remainder of the article at Tribal College Journal.

 

 

 


Megan M. Miller

Megan M. Miller is a resource specialist and community educator at Nebraska Indian Community College’s Santee campus.

Palm Beach Atlantic Journalism Student Interns at South Florida’s NPR Station

Amber Amortegui is a Johnson Scholar attending Palm Beach Atlantic University, a core grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. This article is shared with permission.

Amber Amortegui

As an intern for WLRN, Amber Amortegui regularly reports for the top-ranked public ration station in the state.

The senior journalism major and incoming editor-in-chief of The Beacon Today persistently pursued the internship for more than a year by building up her resume and connecting with the station’s news staff. Amortegui, of Davie, Florida, landed one of two paid internships at the station in a highly-competitive environment.

She has covered a protest in Fort Lauderdale, the reopening of a local bowling alley following the COVID-19 shutdown and a virtual meeting of the Florida Board of Governors, which governs the state’s 12 public universities.

Amortegui impressed WLRN Editorial Director Alicia Zuckerman with her willingness to jump in. She is not shy about pitching ideas during daily news meetings, Zuckerman said, and she quickly forged a working relationship with her fellow intern. The two are collaborating on an upcoming piece about how Gen Z uses social media for activism.

“She had a lot of ideas of her own. She asked a lot of good questions,” Zuckerman said of Amortegui. “I’ve been really impressed with how proactive she’s been. She’s also been really open to learning in the process.”

Before starting the internship, Amortegui possessed digital editing skills from the podcast she records and produces for The Beacon Today, Zuckerman said. In the social media piece, for example, she incorporated the sounds of various social media alerts.

Amortegui credits PBA journalism professors Israel Balderas and Danilda Martinez for preparing students to create print, audio and video packages. She was familiar with some of WLRN’s audio recorders because PBA owns the same equipment.

At the same time, the internship has given her opportunities to work through challenges that she hasn’t faced in the classroom. At the bowling alley, for example, music blared overhead as she interviewed a couple playing in a senior league. At the protest, someone dribbled a basketball nearby as she recorded one of the chants.

“I’m really glad I was able to get this type of internship, because it is what I want to do,” said Amortegui, whose end goal is to work for a National Public Radio station or a syndicated podcast.

Amortegui has helped WLRN reach a broader audience by paying close attention to how her peers get their news – which is typically not through national media – and relaying what she learns to editors and reporters, Zuckerman said.

Amortegui said she’s learned both journalism and leadership skills from observing the team at WLRN, specifically Zuckerman and News Director Terence Shepherd.

“It’s a lot of teamwork. They don’t act like there’s a hierarchy,” Amortegui said. “They’re always open to hearing reporters’ ideas. They encourage us to take risks in our storytelling.”

She said she enjoys providing a valuable public service – helping listeners make sense of the news in a time of chaos and confusion.

“We’re called to do our job, inform the public and state facts accurately,” Amortegui said.

Sarah Peters serves as Multimedia Writer/Editor for University Relations and Marketing at Palm Beach Atlantic University. PBA is a core grantee partner of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

FAMU’s CeDAR Office Empowers Students with Disabilities to Take Charge of Their Education

The following item first appeared in The Famuan.

The Center for Disability Access and Resources (CeDAR) is positioned to aid students with learning, psychological and physical disabilities.

CeDAR is a resource center to provide support-programs and reasonable accommodations to students who seek help to broaden their skills and to gain personal, academic and professional development.

There are currently more than 600 students who are registered with the CeDAR office. The center administers service to the main campus as well as satellite campuses.

The program director, Deborah Sullivan, is an advocate for students.

“Our mission is to provide enriching support programs, services and reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. We also try to foster a sense of empowerment by educating them about their legal rights and responsibilities. We want them to make informed choices, be critical thinkers and self-advocate, and then we want to make sure our students have the same access to programs, opportunities and activities available to any other student at Florida A&M University,” she said.

I’m a student who was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and a learning disability for math. I never was incapable of learning material that other students had learned, I just tend to learn, process and perform at my own gradual pace, as opposed to the average student who performs at a faster rate.

A-Chai'a Jackson
A-Chai’a Jackson

Tia Huie, a registered CeDAR student and work-study facilitator at the center, shared her perspective.

“I feel like the center has an impact on me because, at first, I was not a CeDAR student. You have those students who have learning disabilities and when you think about how hard and time-consuming college work can be, to have a place that helps them through the process is empowering,” she said.

This is inclusive too: extra time on tests, transport mobility, different testing locations, tape recordings, tutoring and other support services.

The CeDAR office has done a persistent, commendable job in assisting me; from providing a safe space, extra time on tests, free printing, computer usage, and accommodating me with letters to inform my professors about my academic needs.

The program outreach coordinator, Joshua Lowder, gave more insight on what his duties are as it pertains to assisting registered CeDAR students.

“I work here as the program outreach coordinator, and what I do is work with incoming freshmen and also work with sophomores that are here from the College Study Skills Institute (CSSI), and how I help them is I plan different activities and also help plan things around what CeDAR does, in terms of student game nights or student engagement and I try to also work on community pieces to help us bridge the gap and let people know we are here at the university to help students who may have learning, physical, psychological, cognitive or mental disabilities,” he said.

A-Chai’a Jackson of Bushnell, Florida, is a third-year broadcast journalism major at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). He is a registered CeDAR student with a learning disability who serves as Mr. Transfer Student Association (TSA), a staff writer for the FAMUAN and a staff writer and copy editor for FAMU Journey Magazine.

Start Planning for College the Day You Start High School

Going through the college admissions process is as much an opportunity to learn about yourself as it is a journey to define and pursue your future college and career goals. Path to College aims to demystify this competitive and sometimes overwhelming process by providing in-depth and comprehensive expert advice to students across our county regardless of economic background. As a partner of Achieve Palm Beach County along with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we are committed to increasing the rate of students preparing for, enrolling in, and persisting through degree credentialing programs. With that shared mission in mind, we are happy to share a few quick tips to help you manage your career and college search.

9th Grade — Take a Career Aptitude test through a free account at My Career Shines. Next, explore the suggested careers through volunteer and enrichment opportunities. Consider how you can plan your course load to prepare for this career path. Look for academically rigorous courses. Challenging electives like journalism, debate, or high-tech computer classes are a great way to round out your transcript. Talk often and excitedly about your goals or ideas for your future. Look for opportunities and feedback. Expert tip: The Admissions committee loves to see more than two years of a foreign language on your transcript. Science courses are the number one reason students do not graduate on time. Make sure to get your required science classes completed as soon as possible. Do not put them off and plan on taking two at once!

10th Grade — Seek advanced coursework and volunteer opportunities that match your career interests. Take your PERT test and try to dual enroll over your summer break. Otherwise, try to find a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity that will help you gain skills for the workforce.

11th Grade — Complete a virtual tour or on-campus tour. Research the colleges you are interested in at College Navigator. Study for your SAT or ACT regularly, aiming to put in at least one to two hours a week. There are free online preparation resources through Khan Academy or ACT Academy Aim to revise your personal statement (College application essay) three to five times over summer. Get a second reader, and make sure to follow the instructors.

12th Grade — Choose three teachers to ask for a recommendation letter. Give them between two to four weeks to prepare. Ask them, “Can you write me a STRONG recommendation letter?” In October, fill out your FAFSA. Apply to your dream school during early admission in November. Set a goal to apply to one college every other week and stick to it. Use the Common App to help manage the process. Apply to scholarships between October and March and shoot for one a week. Use your personal statement as a starting template and rework for each scholarship you apply for.

Additional resources for students and parents are available on the Achieve Palm Beach County website at achievepbc.org/resources.

Christine Sylvain is the Founder and Executive Director of the Path to College Fellowship, whose mission is to secure the acceptance of as many high-achieving, low-income students into top-tier universities as possible.

6 Questions All Transfer Students Should Ask

Read more at SUNY Ulster’s blog at blog.sunyulster.edu

As college students pursuing forms of higher education, question-asking really becomes a learned art. After all, in order to make informed decisions regarding our future as academics, we need to understand the options available to us. So, here are six questions all students looking for their dream transfer school should ask:

What credits will transfer?

This is SO important. Every college is different, as are their requirements for degree completion. This means that while most or all of your courses may transfer at one institution, you might have a lot of catching up to do at another. Make sure you know just how many credits will transfer before you make a final decision.

Is there a different application period?

It can be confusing navigating other college websites, but many dedicate an entire section to transfer students. If they do, this section is where you should find all of the information you’ll need in regards to applying. Since the application process can be different for transfer students as opposed to first-year applicants, you will want to make sure you are applying by the correct deadline.

What opportunities are there for me to get involved?

As mentioned in a previous blog post, campus involvement is such an important part of making the most of your college experience. One of the best things you can do when seeking to transfer is to ask what opportunities for involvement are available to you — especially in your specific field of study! Ask about clubs, internships and other programs the college might offer and take advantage of the results.

What about specific scholarships?

Nobody wants to graduate with a mess of student loans to take care of, but since the average transfer school is more expensive than community college, student loans are a very real possibility. Scholarships are a great way to help eliminate that debt. And oftentimes, institutions offer specific scholarships for their transfer students. These are definitely worth looking into!

What is the rate of student success?

Some schools have a better success rate for transfer students than others. This has to do with the programs they offer, as well as how easy it is for transfer students to acclimate in their new environment. Some colleges focus a lot of time, attention and energy towards their transfers. Others leave their transfer students to wade through the muddle of information all by themselves. Finding a school where you will be valued will greatly improve your personal chance at success.

Can I talk to your students?

Though the previous five questions are mainly designed to be asked of admissions counselors, never forget the students! They are your gateway to developing a thorough and precise list of the pros and cons of your dream transfer school. Students are never shy to give you their honest opinion about classes, professors, activities, inclusion — even the affordability of cafeteria prices. Definitely take advantage of this insider-look!

Ariana Stadtlander is an alumna of SUNY Ulster now pursuing a career as a freelance writer, editor and blogger.

Creating Visibility and Supportive Campus Environments for Native American Students

The American Indian College Fund explored how to support higher education’s role in creating safe and welcoming environments and greater visibility for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students at a convening it hosted of students, tribal college leaders and leaders from mainstream institutions of higher education (IHE), policy organizations and funders.

What we heard affirmed what we already knew — for Native students to be successful in college the institution must be committed to their inclusion.

Native students shared they want to go to college in an environment where their unique tribal identities are recognized, where their history and current lives are included in the curriculum and in campus life, and where they are visible.

Supporting education equity for Native students takes many forms. Native students at tribal colleges and mainstream institutions have benefited from Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s support of access to higher education through scholarships. The American Indian College Fund works to expand student support to specific ways that higher education institutions can be proactive with inclusion.

Four specific approaches were identified that can have an immediate impact on the experiences of Native students with higher education:

  1. Land acknowledgment: All higher education institutions exist on land that once served as the homeland of one or more tribal nations. Westward expansion, war and removal all impacted the abilities of tribes to situate themselves or have claims on homelands. When land acknowledgment occurs, Native students’ existence and experience is validated. I’ve learned that it is also a good educational exercise because most people don’t know whose homelands they are living on.

2. Representation in curriculum, at events and functions and in public materials: The history and contemporary experiences of indigenous peoples are usually not represented in curriculum. In addition, many times Native peoples are not onstage or giving presentations and are rarely included in public-facing places like websites and brochures. IHE can examine and modify curriculum to insure inclusion. For example, any American government class that doesn’t include tribal governments as a form of governance in the U.S. should immediately remedy that. When events are organized and representatives of various populations are invited to participate, inclusion of Native speakers should be automatically considered and materials and media should be reviewed to determine if Native student photos and stories are included.

3. Data inclusion: Ensuring the institution’s leadership knows the status of Native students is critical to success, whether it is one student or 400. Often the numbers are used as an excuse for not knowing the status of Native students and for not reporting that status to the public and to enrolled students. This may require extra effort to define who will be included in that population and what reporting will look like, but it is essential to overcoming invisibility.

4. Facilitating pathways through expanded recruitment, scholarship support and student services: IHE should examine their recruitment footprint and ensure enough outreach to have a broad group of potential students. They should also ensure sufficient financial support and targeted student services are provided, including designated advisors and counselors. Students also shared that having their own space matters. Native student centers and residential housing creates visible support on campus.

It takes intentional effort and sufficient investment to create climates where Native students can succeed. Native students are themselves excellent informants about what works. Tribal colleges and universities are good resources for best practices and strategic partnerships to support success.


Cheryl Crazy Bull is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Tribe and is President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. She has more than 30 years of experience in Native higher education.

Promise and Transformation

Nativity Preparatory School of Boston recently hosted its inaugural Nativity Promise Dinner with the theme of “Our Promise. Their Future. Your Impact.” The event convened Nativity’s committed benefactors, supporters and allies for an evening dedicated to the idea of the “Nativity Promise.” To set the scene for the evening, Nativity released a new video featuring students, alumni and staff describing the life-long impact of the Nativity Promise.

At Nativity, we believe that all children deserve an education that opens doors and provides the foundation to thrive. For many young men of color from low-income families, society falls short. We’ve made a promise to them and their families.

Our Promise: We promise to always believe in and invest in the incredible potential of boys from low-income Boston communities to become successful, compassionate “men for others” through the opportunity of education.

Their Future: Empowered by a high-quality, full-scholarship Jesuit education and resourced by an extensive Graduate Support program, our alumni thrive in school, career, and service to their families, communities, businesses, and the world.

Your Opportunity for Impact: The generous and dedicated support of organizations like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation helps fulfill this promise and has a transformative impact on the lives of these young men.

Kevin Sullivan is the Assistant Director of Advancement at Nativity Prep Boston. With a background in communications, his work focuses on sharing stories about Jesuit education’s mission to increase equity and access.

Five College Success Takeaways from the Johnson Scholars/Take Stock Senior Summit

On a recent Thursday morning, more than 100 recent high school graduates sacrificed a morning of their hard-earned summer vacation to equip themselves for the next step — college.

JS-TSIC Senior Summit 2018

Held on the campus of Palm Beach State College, this year’s Senior Summit — a half-day boot camp of sorts — was nothing new for these students. All of them had spent the past four years in a college readiness program supported by the School District of Palm Beach County, Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. All have been accepted to a college or university. A few of them already have college credits or even associate’s degrees they earned through dual enrollment while still in high school.

But even though these students will continue to receive support services from the program while they are at college, they soon learned there are several steps they need to take on their own to be successful.  Here are five of our favorites.

Students in a group exercise

Get involved. During an icebreaker exercise, the students were challenged to get out of their comfort zone and meet people by trying out elaborate (and frequently silly) handshake techniques. The point? The best way to make the most of your college experience is to study hard but also make an effort to reach out to other students. As Resource Teacher Gbolade George put it, “you won’t meet new friends sitting in your dorm room.”

Success is no secret. The primary non-secret that Mr. George addressed was that students need to have a vision. “If you don’t know where you are going, you’re never going to get there.” Students were encouraged to dream big, set goals and then take action. The second non-secret is that success takes hard work and students have the choice of working at their education or not. Mr. George stressed the need for work by noting that “if you don’t pay the price for success [work], you will pay the price for failure.” He encouraged the students to value their time and use it wisely.

Take Stock college success guide logo

Money management is important. The day’s activities included a crash course in budgeting and the different types of financial aid. Take Stock in Children Director of Program Services Marilyn Schiavo encouraged students to look for grants instead of loans, and to be aware that many types of aid require them to keep their grades above a C average. They also received a budget template as part of their College Success Guide to help them keep track of expenses.

Take care of your mental health. In a session titled “Get Your Mind Right,” Jeannie Hoban, a Palm Beach State College counselor and faculty member, talked about why mental health is important and why it matters in college. She encouraged students to find out what resources are available on their campus and to take advantage of them. The most common types of mental illness are anxiety and depression, and people often have co-occurring illnesses, she said. For students who suffer from test anxiety, she said deep breaths are the quickest way students can calm themselves down.

Two students in a group exercise

Know what to expect. Take Stock College Retention Specialists Irijah Kanoyton and Ruth Ann Dean introduced the students to the Kuder Career Interests Assessment program. Using individual computers, every student was able to complete a survey that produced not only what career areas are of most interest to each student, but what actual jobs there are in those areas, what those jobs are currently paying, and what college courses need to be taken to prepare for those jobs. They stressed the value of knowing what you want and planning appropriately, as well as the value of really working with guidance counselors and advisors to get on track and stay on track.

Lady Hereford is a program specialist with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. She has spent significant time working in journalism and public relations, and she assists the Foundation’s communications efforts as it expands its impact across sectors. More information about the Johnson Scholarship Foundation can be found at www.jsf.bz.

More than Scholarships

Foundations don’t seek recognition for the work they do. They are uncomfortable in the spotlight, preferring instead to shine it upon their hard-working nonprofit partners.

But sometimes an event designed to show gratitude to a funder can become much more that. Here at the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we had a chance to experience this firsthand during the recent Johnson Scholarship Day celebration at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Students at a tableJohnson Scholarship Day gave JSF staff a chance to meet more than 100 students who are recipients of PBA’s Johnson Scholarships. In total there are more than 800 academically talented and service-oriented Johnson Scholars at PBA, a Christian university of about 3,850 students in West Palm Beach, Florida.

This was the second year the university has hosted Johnson Scholarship Day. It was special to JSF for several reasons, but three in particular stood out to us.

First, it was a chance for JSF to get to know the students. During PBA’s Johnson Scholarship Day, we had a chance to enjoy refreshments and sit down with college students, a famously busy lot. They told us about their hometowns and their future plans. They also shared what the scholarship means to them.

Students wearing johnson scholarship day shirtsMany of them spoke about financial need and how the scholarship helped fill in the gaps in their financial aid. Some said the scholarship gave them encouragement to stay focused on their studies. As Johnson Scholar Primose Lataillade told us, “It teaches us that people believe in us.”

Second, it was a chance for the students to get to know JSF. Our founders, the late Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson, came to know PBA through their personal friendship with PBA Founding Board Chairman Dr. Donald Warren.

PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr. described Mr. Johnson as a remarkable man who loved PBA students. Because of Mr. Johnson’s admiration for the university, PBA has been a grant recipient – one of the Foundation’s largest – since JSF’s inception in 1991.

JSF President and CEO Malcolm Macleod gave the students additional insight into Mr. Johnson, who shared Dr. Warren’s belief that a school like PBA had the potential to slow what many perceived at the time as a moral decline in America. “He felt that this was a great investment in society,” he said.

Sharon Wood at Johnson Scholarship DayThird, it was a chance for JSF to see the return on not just one but two of its investments. During the event, we learned that at least one of the students in the room was well acquainted with JSF long before she ever set foot on PBA’s campus.

As a student at Palm Beach Gardens Community High School, this student spent all four years in the Johnson Scholars program, a college readiness program that is a partnership among JSF, the School District of Palm Beach County and Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County. Students who complete the program receive a college scholarship. For this young woman, that scholarship enabled her to continue her studies at PBA.

To us, stories like hers and the others we heard are what Johnson Scholarship Day was really about. We are proud of all of our Johnson Scholars at PBA, as well as those at other colleges, universities and schools throughout Florida, the United States and Canada.

Lady Hereford is a program specialist with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. She has spent significant time working in journalism and public relations, and she assists the Foundation’s communications efforts as it expands its impact across sectors. More information about the Johnson Scholarship Foundation can be found at www.jsf.bz.