From a very early age I knew college was not a matter of if, but where. My parents worked hard to provide me with resources to help me succeed in school, but as a first generation student, they did not know enough about college to help me apply. During my senior year of high school, I joined ASAP after joining the cross country team, and it was one of the best decisions I have made. ASAP was very helpful in providing me the resources and knowledge needed to apply to and thrive in college.
During my first two years, I found it very difficult to navigate college as a student of color. When I arrived at UC Santa Barbara, it was a bit of a culture shock to meet people who had not faced the same hardships as myself and many of my peers in high school. It was also hard to find a spaces on campus and resources that would help to support my college experience. UC Santa Barbara offers a lot of resources to students, but it can be difficult to find them at such a large school.
The black student population at UC Santa Barbara is 4% which made the transition to college difficult for me. I found that throughout my four years I would be the only, or one of a few black students in class. This made it hard for me to voice my opinions in class out of fear that my peers wouldn’t understand my experiences. It also was difficult for me to find student organizations that I felt connected to. During my junior year I found out that the school had a Pan-African Student Union and I immediately joined. I finally felt connected as I met students who shared the same experiences and struggles as me. Finding a community for students of color can be essential to navigating college, as it offers a safe space for students to come to relax and voice their opinions to like minded peers.
I also found that the student health center on campus was very important resource that is often overlooked. Going to a counselor can be very beneficial, especially for minority students, as it allows students to voice their opinions and feelings in a safe environment. Going to therapy is not only a great outlet for students with mental health issues, but great way to create structure. Having someone check up on you from time to time can keep you on track to graduate. They are another resource available to students as they offer academic and financial resources. Going to a therapist made me realize the importance of prioritizing mental health, and that is when I joined the Commission of Student Well-Being. We worked to better the wellness of the overall student population by offering yoga, fitness classes, and promoting acts of kindness around campus.
Although UC Santa Barbara does an amazing job of providing resources for first-generation and low income students, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The overwhelming amount of resources and information can be hard for students to navigate through as they adjust to college life. This is one of the reasons I wanted to start working at ASAP, so I could make the process of finding resources on campus much easier for students.
Ruta Gebrihiwet is one of ASAP’s College Success Advisors, advising seniors one on one with the entire college application process. She graduated Mission High School in 2013 and Scripps College in 2017.
Note: ASAP at Mission High School (formerly Athletics Scholars Advancement Program) merged with Mission Graduates in July 2020. This article has been transferred to Mission Graduates’ website for archival purposes and reflects the work, vision, and stories of ASAP staff and students at the time of publication.