I never thought that I would have the opportunity of going away to experience college life at such a young age. When I found out about the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Scholars Summer Program, I thought what a great and wonderful opportunity. OSSE is a program that gives low income, first generation students a chance to meet new people from all over the world, experience a top-tier university, take new classes/subjects, and learn how to be independent. I was encouraged by my college counselor and many other staff members at my school, Maya Angelou Public Charter School, to just give it a try and apply. So I went through the rigorous process of filling out the application, an essay, and two interviews. Next thing you know, a few weeks later, I get an email and phone call saying, “Congratulations, Shakira out of 360 applicants you have been selected for OSSE!Â”
I was selected to go to Emory University for the summer of 2014 for six weeks. When I heard that I would be going to a college campus for the entire summer, away from home, I was excited yet very nervous. I enrolled for a Sociology class with Professor Lesley Watson and other college students.
Before we arrived at Emory for the summer, OSSE held an orientation for the youth who were going to Emory so that we could meet, help, and support one another. On my way there, I had all of these positive and negative thoughts of what college was going to be like. I thought that taking a college class was going to be really difficult, that I wasn’t going to understand the coursework or fit in with the college students.
When I stepped off the airport shuttle, I thought that the campus and residence halls were beautiful. I loved the marble buildings and the many places you could go on campus, even though everything was a good walk away. The students in the classes and the professors at Emory were amazing because I was surrounded by other students who were smart and who shared the same interests. We also had more freedom with our classes because the course that we took was totally up to us. If we didnÃ¢â¬â¢t like the course, we had the option to add/drop/swap during the first week.
In the beginning, my Sociology seminar was challenging, but I was able to ask a lot of questions during the group discussions. My peers understood the work better than me, they knew how to break down the lesson for me and explain a difficult concept. Inevitably, we became friends. I also loved the fact that Emory had activities for us to do because we learned time management skills.
Outside of class, we went to Emory Village and Emory Point, streets with lots of shops and eateries, to take our minds off of the heavy work load. On the weekends, we visited the Coca-Cola Factory and the Georgia Aquarium. After the graduation ceremony, we took a trip to Six Flags Over Georgia, a huge amusement park in Atlanta, Georgia. These activities helped us make better connections with the other students in the OSSE Scholars Program and we got to experience the city of Atlanta.
One lesson that I learned was that professors are not going to hunt you down and ask you if you did your work or not. The professor also isn’t going to hold your hand and remind you that you didn’t make up the missed work on the day you didn’t come to class. I also learned that you should take advantage of the supportive programs that they have like tutoring for your courses.
Overall, going to Emory was a life-changing experience that I will never forget and I encourage other kids to go out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves. My experience at Emory University made me even more excited of going to college and realize that I wanted to go to a school with a small class setting. I just wish every child who is serious about their education will have the same opportunity and experience that I had.
Shakira Hawkins is a senior at Maya Angelou Public Charter School and is currently taking classes for college credit at Trinity University in D.C. She is also anÂ Achiever’s scholar.Â