It’s around this time of year when I usually start to think to myself: “Okay, well, most of these students have been here about 6 months, and we talk often about how hard work now can lead to career and college opportunities later. Career and college connections are a part of everything that we do and say here at Citizen Schools, but are our students really listening and taking it in?”
Fortunately, this time of year is also when we are able to access the results from the surveys that we give our students; a questionnaire that measures everything from whether they believe the adults in their lives want them to go to college to the quality of life they hope to have in five or ten years. For some students, the surveys are a drag—an unfortunate necessity that takes them away from other activities and asks them to sit and self-reflect. But for most students, as I have witnessed firsthand, surveys are an opportunity to share their voices and their opinions about themselves, their community, and our program. They relish the chance to tell us how they really feel, and they’re empowered when they know we’re listening. The only thing we want from them is honesty, and that’s certainly what we get.
In wondering what kind of impact our focus on career and college pathways was having on the students, I turned to the survey results for an answer. Now, there are always students who take longer to convince that they too can make it to college—students who need a little more investment; a little more “you can do it!” But in my search for affirmation that what we do makes a difference, I came upon the survey response that quieted every concern. In answer to the question: “Citizen Schools staff expects me to (do my homework, graduate college, be polite, etc.) and they expect these things because…” one student wrote this:
If you give up now on what you do while your [sic] young your [sic] basically giving up on life because you give up at a young age your [sic] going to get used to giving up on everything else in life.
Good grades, graduation, college and career…I couldn’t have said it better myself.