MUSCATINE, Iowa–Applying to college or post secondary vocational programs can present many challenges for high school seniors. This year, several current Muscatine High School seniors, Rebekah McNeely, Ana Poffenbaugh, and Audrey Seibel, have trained as Americorps Student Leaders. In their new role, these students will help their peers complete the college application process and gain valuable skills.
In the past, Muscatine High School has partnered with adult Americorps volunteers to help students explore post secondary education opportunities. For the 2020-2021 school year, the school opted to take a different approach utilizing Americorps Student Leaders. After applying, the three participating students completed approximately 17 hours of online preparation, paired with written reflections, focused on completing college applications, filling out the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, finding scholarship opportunities, and similar topics.
Prepared with this knowledge, the Americorps Student Leaders now offer individualized help to any student who requests it on any topic relating to post secondary education. As Rebekah explained it: “We also offer a survey that students can fill out regarding their college path and interests, and we’ll literally research scholarships that match those interests and send them to them. We can help with writing college or scholarship essays, and we can help them file the FAFSA. There is really no limit to what we can help with.”
Along with these individualized services, Muscatine High School’s Americorps Student Leaders also follow up with any seniors who have not completed their FAFSA to see if they need additional help and organize weekly teacher interviews to give students a chance to hear about their college experiences. Ana elaborated, “it lets teachers give college advice to students from their perspective, and gives students the opportunity to ask questions from someone who has been through the college process before.”
Rebeckah added: “I personally find them super helpful for me personally as I prepare to head to college. It’s great to hear the various perspectives and get a broader view on the college experience.” The leaders present each of these interviews through virtual meetings which they also record, allowing students who cannot attend in person to listen at their leisure.
As they work to help their classmates prepare for the future, the Americorps Student Leaders take pride in their work. Ana shared she values that, “the work I am doing helps people I know and care about.”
While each of the Americorps Student Leaders has a unique opportunity to help their classmates pursue post secondary education, their work also helps them in their own college searches. Additionally, this paid position comes with scholarship opportunities of its own. “The training that these students received not only benefited other students, but it helped these students with their own college searches and admissions processes,” said Student Leader Site Supervisor Karey Hawkins. “Their experience will be helpful for them should they choose to seek part-time employment on their future college campuses.”
Ana voiced her agreement. “The work helps me in understanding more about my college preparation, and in turn helps me to aid my peers with their needs.”