November 29, 2012

Yen’s Story: STEM major and Dream Project AmeriCorps Staff

By ynguyen6

When I first heard about the Dream Project, I initially pushed it to the side. Friends of mine were taking the class at the time and talked about how cool it was. But I wasn’t convinced that it was something for me. I was a Biochemistry major and I wanted to go into the health field. As much as I supported the idea of helping low-income and first generation students to college, I just wasn’t interested in the education field, which is what the Dream Project looked like to me at first glance.

But the idea of helping low-income and first-generation students to college still stuck with me. I came from a low-income family and I was the first one to go to college. I understood how hard the college application process was. I didn’t know how to write a personal statement. I didn’t know what FAFSA meant or what a PIN number was. It was tough not having someone that can help guide you through that process. I knew I wanted to ”give back” and help those who were in the same position as I was 4 years ago.  So I told myself, “If I have time in my schedule, I will definitely sign up for Dream Project.”

So at the beginning of each quarter, I would see purple shirts and Dream Project posters.  Then I would look at my schedule and it’s filled with long labs and tough classes like BIOCHEM 440 or GENOME 371. Dream Project was always conflicting with the classes I was taking so I would say to myself, “Maybe next quarter when I have more time.

So fall quarter turned into spring quarter and freshman year turned into senior year. Finally, in my senior year, after all the classes that I had to take to complete for my major, I finally had a less rigorous class schedule. I started to constantly see these signs, “Help students get to college” and “Make an impact.” So with the remaining 10 weeks I had as an undergrad, I finally joined the Dream Project.

Dream Project is unique—unlike any other program or student organization on campus. Dream Project not only makes a difference in our students’ lives but it also makes a difference in our mentors’ lives. Dream Project is a place where leaders are made. Where else can you find a class or program that allows a committee of undergraduate students to plan a 2-day event with over 1000 participants? Where else can you find the opportunity to be a class lead and speak in front of 500 students every Monday? Where else can you find all-you-can-drink Capri suns?

My biggest regret was not joining earlier. One quarter in the Dream Project wasn’t enough, I wanted more. So when the opportunity came up in class that the Dream Project was looking for an AmeriCorps member, I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do when I graduate. The decision to continue with the Dream Project as an AmeriCorps member was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Being at the front desk and supporting mentors with all their needs is both amazing and crazy at the same time. Aside from all of our daily duties as AmeriCorps members, Amrita and I have our own projects that we work on. My project is to increase the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) mentors into the Dream Project.

So to all my brothers and sisters who are in the chemistry labs, feeding the rats or in the basement working on a computer program, Dream Project is much more than a class in the education department that visit high schools once-a-week to help students with their college applications. Dream Project can help you develop leadership skills that are required in the job field that you want to go into. Whether it be in the health field or the engineering or computer science field, they are all looking for leaders who can create a trusting relationship, has great communication skills and organizational skills, and has the ability to work with different people from different backgrounds. All of which you can gain from being a part of the Dream Project.

There is a desperate need in our society and economy for more students to be in the STEM field. As a STEM mentor, you can help inspire more students to become more interested in the STEM field. Who knows, the kid that you help get to college today, could be the person that cures cancer.

Before you go, I want to leave you with a quote from a Dream Project mentor:

“Each mentor’s experience is their own, complete with struggles and accomplishments, but I promise you, it is unforgettable.”

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