Chapter 3: Creating Positive Change
[Editor’s Note: Amy Browender ’13, Kyle Ruedinger ’13, Elizabeth Brown ’13, and Jessie Lillis ’13 are writing alternating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]
There have been innumerous surprises, challenges, and small victories in the first few months I’ve spent with my 35 high school seniors. Since the beginning of November, I’ve been guiding my “family” of students through the college application process which, admittedly, they have taken much more seriously than I did as a senior. Whether my day consists of a student finding their dream school, completing a particularly rigorous application, or receiving their first acceptance letter, the last six weeks have been incredibly exciting; I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to create positive change.
I’m putting in about sixty hours a week at work (something I would have balked at this time last year), but I find that the days fly by and that I’m energized by the nature of my job. Working with my students is nearly always positive, even if the outcome of our work together doesn’t yield the exact results we desire. While not every college application will produce an acceptance and not every scholarship essay written will result in a sum of money towards their education, I am constantly impressed by my students’ resilience and their unrelenting determination towards realizing their goal of enrolling in—and graduating from—college. So many of them have dealt with immense adversity throughout their lives, but I am encouraged by their positivity and their belief that with hard work and a college degree, life will get a little better.
Although I deal with some challenging issues, the nature of my job necessitates that I also have a lot of fun. Working with young, energetic people who are excited about their own futures is wonderfully refreshing, and I love that each day consists of new tasks and different interactions. I’m pretty good at finding new ways to embarrass myself in front of them, be it a result of my unfamiliarity with the hip-hop scene or my mispronunciation of a common Hmong last name. Laughing is frequently heard coming from our classroom, but the feeling of community and support is strong. Victories and disappointments do not belong to one individual; instead, they are shared amongst the group, and they work to encourage and motivate others.
Although I spend much of my time working, I do manage to find room for some fun. Being a part of an organization that staffs so many young people has been fantastic, as it’s allowed me to make new friends with similar goals and interests. Returning to the Twin Cities felt a little repetitive at the beginning of summer, but I’ve since embraced my hometown(s) and am finding new things to do and exciting places to go nearly every weekend.
Spending so much time with my students has helped me further recognize my privilege and the opportunities and resources that I have been lucky to have. This holiday season means so much more because of the lessons that they have taught me, directly or otherwise. One of my students shared with me how much the Salvation Army’s assistance helped her family a number of years ago when they couldn’t afford the cost of back-to-school supplies. Seeing the difference their help made inspired her to give back to the organization. Subsequently, she has volunteered her time each week to the organization since she was old enough, even though those volunteer hours could be spent working and contributing to her family’s income. “We may not have much, but there are people who have less than we do,” she told me.
Although my life looks nothing like I thought it would be after leaving Ripon, I can confidently say that I’m pleased with where I am and with what I’m doing. This holiday season, my students have given me 35 additional things to be thankful for. While I know I will encounter many challenges within the next few months, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be seven months after graduation.
Amy J. Browender ’13
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