On graduation day I looked out at my classmates and knew some of them would never make it out of the cycle of poverty ever present in minority communities. I wished I could have given them hope and help towards a brighter future, but I was leaving to begin a new chapter of my life in Washington DC. When I got here I knew I wanted to give back to my new home somehow. CSLP gave me the opportunity to do just that. When I read about the Latino Student Fund, a nonprofit program that prepares Hispanic students for their future career and educational goals, I saw a second chance to help change the outcome of a student’s life. My name is Shideya Parrilla, I am a 17-year-old Afro-Caribbean Latina Freshman at American University, and I want to give students like me a chance to succeed.
I currently mentor two aspiring college students from high schools in the DC Virginia area, assist with the college prep of 11th graders and tutor a high school 9th grader on the weekend. As a tutor, I help the student I am assigned work on their math and reading skills, along with any homework they need assistance with. As a college prep assistant, I work with 11th graders to build interview skills, search for colleges, and map out what they will do following high school along with how they will get there. As a mentor, I assist my two mentees with understanding and completing the college application process while looking and applying for scholarship opportunities. Together we work through language barriers in order to holistically present them in their applications. Above all, my role is to be a resource for my students.
I knew I would encounter some challenges when I began volunteering, such as having mentees who may be undocumented or unable to speak English. I knew my goals of learning more about Hispanic culture and the Spanish language would be fulfilled. I wasn’t prepared for the impact these students would have on me. Listening to the struggles many of them faced pursuing a better life with their families has helped me put my own struggles into perspective. I am excited to see what the rest of my year with them has in store.