There IS Crying in College Tours

The recipe for a college tour chaperone, apparently, is equal parts cat-herder, Realtor, and grief counselor. Last month, I was one of five chaperones for the Ivy League Project, a Central Valley group that took 32 students on an East Coast college tour. Almost all of them were Latino, first-gen, high-achieving sophomores or juniors. These were some of the lessons I learned over spring break: -- Planning a college tour for others really is much tougher than planning one for yourself. If you dare to fly 32 West Coast teens to the East Coast, you can overcome some setbacks. But the devil’s in the details. Our charter bus driver was chronically late, so we missed parts of our scheduled campus visits and half of the Broadway show for which we had prepaid. As for the students, they’re used to more personal space back home. They didn’t move as fast or as orderly as the crowds they impeded in D.C. and Boston. I lost count of the times I called out, “Walk on the right, pass on the left!” … [Read more...]

College Access Suffers Unimaginable Loss: A Call For Us To Support Humboldt and Other Vital Outreach and Admit Programs

On April 10, a free college preview trip to Humboldt State in Northern California ended in a tragic bus crash that killed five Southern California teens and three college advocates, along with injuring dozens of others. Since the accident, dozens of counselors and teachers at urban schools around southern Los Angeles have contacted me, letting me know whether or not their students on the free long weekend trip were safe or not. They know I am an advocate of college access and that I actively encourage low-income high school seniors to take advantage of free college visits during the spring of their senior years of high school. While nothing can reduce the unimaginable loss of these students and college advocates, I hope we can work together to help the surviving students and their families see the beauty of a four-year college education at a college like Humboldt State. For the past 20 years, Humboldt State, a mid-size public university in Northern California, has understood that to … [Read more...]

The Ivy League Project College Tour

In the beginning, I led a parallel life. For 20 years, I was an observer. This year, I’m finally a participant. The Ivy League Project ( selects high-achieving sophomores and juniors, teaches them networking skills, and takes them on an East Coast college tour during spring break. The nonprofit group is based in Parlier, CA, a Central Valley farm town where the high school is 99% Latino, more than 30% of people live below the poverty level, and only 5% of adults have a four-year degree. This is not some fancy French-sounding Par-lee-EH; this is blue-collar Par-LEER. In 1992, teacher Martín Mares started the group with six Parlier High students under the name Harvard Tomorrow (which did not go over well at most campuses). He faced constant resistance in a town where few believed students could go farther than Fresno State 25 miles away. But Mr. Mares and his students raised the money to go to the East Coast. Two years later, three of those six Parlier … [Read more...]

College Tours and Disneyland

So, I'm sitting in the lobby of a Marriott Courtyard in Waco, TX waiting for 26 high school juniors to come down to the lobby. It's day three of a college tour and it's early in the morning.  It's the kind of moment that makes you look at your life and look at your choices.  I love this job and I love college tours, but I try to see 25 schools a year.  Occasionally, it's tough to capture the magic, harness my chi and not indulge my cynical side with questions like: "How many volumes are in the library?" or "What happens if I can't find a book in your library? Is there some kind of exchange?"  There is also the all-important, "Tell me about these blue lights" as well as my intense scrutiny of the height of the climbing wall. I think about college tours the way I think about Disneyland. What I'm about to tell you may, at best, cause me to lose credibility with a couple of my readers. (Assuming there are more than a couple of readers.  Shout out to my parents.) At worst, it may … [Read more...]

How Soon is Too Soon?

I like to watch my kids sleep.  My own biological children, not my students.  The latter would probably put me on some kind of watch list.  Anyway, I like to watch my own children sleep.  They are so peaceful and this time in their lives seems to be going so fast. (If you need a soundtrack for this blog try Fiddler on the Roof, “Sunrise, Sunset”.)  When they are asleep I get all of the gratification of being a father and none of the sass.  I actually feel like I do some of my best parenting when my kids are sleeping. So, the other night around midnight, I poked my head into my 5 year old daughter’s room.  In a related story, I also like to walk around my house in the middle of the night.  Makes me feel like the king of my castle in a way that I rarely do when the rest of my people are up and around.  I noticed that my daughter’s school uniform was lying on the ground and I walked over to pick it up.  I noticed that she had a pin on the front and turning it over I realized that this … [Read more...]