Next month, I will graduate from UC Berkeley with a degree in Social Welfare and English. After graduation, I hope to work in the education nonprofit sector until I begin a master’s program in higher education. But today I want to share how Kid City helped me with my undergraduate education. Before I can do that, though, I need to address where I was coming from. By the end of my sophomore year, for the first time in my life, I had cooked for myself, paid rent and bills on my own, and started working. But all these transitions in my life were not the challenging part; it was the mixture of upper division courses and depression. By the end of May 2013, college had left me disillusioned and tired. While many of my peers had extensive summer plans, I had given little thought to mine. Back in L.A., I accompanied my brother to Kid City, the program that helped him get into Berkeley. After sitting in on the orientation for the upcoming summer program, I spoke with Laura Cuellar, the site director of Kid City, and told her I wanted to volunteer there. She immediately said yes and took down my number.
I met with her and the other volunteers, most of whom had just graduated high school. We started to develop a peer mentoring class for high school students. The goal of the class was to educate the students about higher education and how to apply to colleges. Through discussions and planning meetings, I saw the energy and motivation my peers had to help students. This helped me gain a new perspective on the role of mentorship and its importance in education. The mentees themselves were full of questions and curiosity. They genuinely wanted to be in Kid City, in the summer, no less! By the end of the program, I felt that I truly made an impact with the students and in Kid City. However, as a volunteer, I received a lot more. I felt appreciated at Kid City and the staff showed concern over my well-being. Not only did I gain mentorship and facilitation skills, but a new outlook in life. I learned not to rely solely on myself but to ask for help when I needed it, just like the students had shown me.
Currently, I have a mentor and who has helped me out immensely in my journey towards graduate school. I am in student groups on campus that have helped me continue developing my professional skills. I call my friends when I need emotional support. But I also have a piece of Kid City in Berkeley. There are five other former Kid City participants at Cal. We try to keep in touch and give each other advice on which classes to take, which professors to avoid, and on campus resources. When I go back to Los Angeles, I always visit Kid City. How can I not? It’s my second home. I love the staff, the students, and the awesome volunteers. I truly believe that Kid City came into my life when I needed it most and I hope I can continue helping the students there whenever possible.