By Marla J. Noel
Education is a passion of mine, as it was for my father. I always knew I would go to college and I thought that it was important for youth today. I ran an Interact group at Saddleback High School. Interact is the High School version of Rotary. I encouraged my fellow Rotarians to talk about their careers to the students. For many of these students, these careers were all new information. Most came from poor Hispanic families, first generation in the US. Juan was one of my students. I got to know Juan through the three years that I ran the program. Juan, because of my speakers, decided that he wanted a college education. His mother was in South American and his father was not part of Juan’s life. In the US, he lived with an Aunt and Uncle, who were not particularly supportive. Attempting the application process for college was a challenge which was made more difficult by the college he was planning to attend.
When Juan went to apply at a local college, the registration office made a mistake on his social security number. He was told that he could not attend the college until his social security number was fixed. At first I thought he was making excuses. Juan told me that he tried to get it fixed for two years with no success. Finally, I decided to go with Juan to the school to see if what he was saying was true. Juan and I sat with a counselor from the college, who apologized for the mistake and assured us that it would be corrected.
The following semester, the social security number still had not been fixed. I was mad and frustrated for Juan, who had now been out of high school for almost 3 years. Again, Juan and I visited the college. This time we went directly to the registrar’s office. I stood in front of the window, and loudly exclaimed that I was not going to leave until they fixed Juan’s social security number. Somehow, they were able to fix Juan’s problem in twenty minutes, and Juan registered for his first college level classes.
It is because of my experience trying to help Juan, that I am so passionate about the Boys and Girls Club of Central Orange Coast’s College Bound program. The club works with youth while they are in high school, to ensure that the students have sufficient college prep courses, and that they have help applying for colleges. There should never be a Juan out there with no help or hope of going to college, however, currently, there are many boys and girls just like Juan.