Ignatian Social Justice Essay: Little Sisters of the Assumption and St. Ignatius Loyola Partnership for College Access Program

Feb 3, 2022

The Ignatian Social Justice Committee recently launched a College Access Program with Little Sisters of the Assumption (LSA) to help their clients navigate the college application process with confidence. As a first step in this program, we held a “What Is College?” workshop, led by Loyola High School’s Director of College Counseling, Maura Brennan, for LSA high school students and parents in December. LSA Community Engagement Manager Melina Gonzalez spread the word, especially among juniors and seniors, and helped bring in a full house of people eager for any knowledge we could offer.

The students and parents were very grateful to Loyola, SIL, and LSA for the workshop, but as soon as it ended, one student–Jacqueline–stepped forward and said she needed help now. A senior in high school, Jacqueline’s college applications were due Jan. 4, 2022. Jacqueline’s essay wasn’t saying what she needed it to say, and she couldn’t wait until next year. She needed a mentor who could help her right away.

This was the perfect opportunity to test-run the mentoring program we hope to offer to LSA clients next year. We reached out to our volunteers within Ignatian Social Justice, and parishioner Laura Silvius was among those who responded. Laura holds an MA in Journalism and has worked as a reporter, editor, and helping other students craft their application essays for undergraduate and graduate schools. She is also passionate about helping young women go to college. She previously ran a mentorship program for inner-city high school girls in her hometown of San Bernardino, Calif., before she moved to New York in 2019.

Melina and Laura met over Zoom in mid-December to go over LSA’s ground rules for its volunteers, which protect the students and LSA’s operations, and which encourage the volunteer to help reduce the student’s anxiety. Then, Laura and Jacqueline got to work. As Laura was in California celebrating Christmas with her family, all her meetings with Jacqueline took place over Zoom.

Using the collaborative features of Google Docs, Jacqueline and Laura worked on the essay together. After a few meetings, Jacqueline decided she needed to write a new essay. She chose a different essay prompt and had a first draft for Laura’s review the very next day. When they were content with that essay, Laura advised Jacqueline to take a 24-hour break before they met for a final review on Jan. 3. They did one final read-through and polish, and Jacqueline was delighted with the essay she submitted.

Melina said she is “extremely happy with the mentoring work Laura did with Jacqueline,” and hopes Laura will mentor other LSA students in the future. We are blessed to have a star like Laura as our first mentor.

ISJ and LSA are establishing a formal college essay program. If you would like to be a mentor or have any questions about the program, please email Laura de Boisblanc at [email protected].