By: Rachel Livingston, VP of Programs
“How are you, Miss? Are you good? Are you staying safe?” I encountered these questions this fall as I logged into my weekly Zoom calls. My response was always the same, “I’m great because I GET to be here with you!” And I meant it.
These calls were supposed to be workshops to help my students complete their college applications, and on a surface level, they were. We edited personal statements, filled in questions about majors and high school activities, and discussed the best ways to help colleges understand their current home and learning situation. But, more importantly, it turned out that they were moments for connection, support, and happily, laughter.
This past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Winston Churchill quote, “When you are going through hell, keep going!” Young people who already had complicated and challenging lives have been asked to do so much more while many of the things that are important to them have been taken away. It was already a difficult task to dream big and believe in themselves as future college students. Now they have to hold those dreams safe and navigate through the COVID pandemic and all that came with it.
Similarly, to our students, this is a moment of unique and extraordinary challenges for the Fulfillment Fund — but it is also a moment of significant opportunities for creativity and innovation. We cannot do what has always been done. Enormous stress has been placed on the staff as they have worked tirelessly to figure out new approaches to supporting our students and our school partners.
Joining Fulfillment Fund at this moment is a special opportunity. After 25 years as a teacher, college counselor, and school administrator in public schools throughout Los Angeles, I am excited to be a part of this amazing team of dedicated professionals and guide our programs through these choppy waters.
This work is a privilege. It has also never been more critical and urgent. The opportunity gaps our students have faced throughout their educational experience have only grown significantly worse through the pandemic. Teachers, counselors, and school leaders across the city have made extraordinary efforts to help students continue to progress through school. Yet, they cannot wash away the harsh realities of the mix of economic and health tragedies many of our students and families are experiencing.
Our school partners have important things to tell us right now about what meaningful support and real partnership look like. As we re-evaluate our service delivery systems and innovate our approach, we are excited about the opportunity to pivot and connect with our school partners in a new way. Much like our students, they have spent this past year building a new layer of adaption into their schools that we can align with and grow.
Whenever I start to get discouraged, worried that we are not going to find our way out of this mess, I look to our students. Their resiliency and determination are awe-inspiring. They are figuring it out, adapting, and shifting to this new reality as they work to rebuild their future.
Despite this upheaval, our students have been clear about what they need. They are counting on us to keep reaching out to them, supporting them, encouraging them, and most importantly, reminding them that “when you’re going through hell, keep going!”