ISJ Essay: What is College? A Workshop with Regis and LSA Students

May 11, 2023

We are grateful to Lisa Peterson, Director of College Counseling, Guidance Counselor, and College Advisor at Regis High School for presenting her “What is College?” workshop to a group of LSA (Little Sisters of the Assumption) Health and Family Services high school students and their parents on Friday, May 5th.

The audience was made up of eight families, predominantly sophomores and juniors, including recent asylum seekers. Lisa is fluent in Spanish and English, courtesy of growing up as a child of Cuban migrant parents, and is ideally suited to present this workshop. Lisa stressed from the beginning and repeated throughout the presentation, that anybody can attend college if they are willing to put in the work and we are there to support them. I consider these workshops a success if these families can come away with the knowledge that this country wants their children to attend college and there are various opportunities and support systems available to them from both the colleges and the government.

This knowledge may be something we take for granted based on our experiences, but for many families of first-generation college applicants, this will be the first time that they become aware of these opportunities, and discover the newly found freedom and the hope that it inspires. Lisa presented handouts in Spanish and English and presented in Spanish with a splash of English acronyms.

A key moment for me was when Lisa asked the audience if they were familiar with CUNY, and they genuinely were not. The enormity of the challenge facing these families was plain to be seen and the value of these workshops was never more evident. I was delighted to see Lisa visit with the families at their tables after the presentation was over. This gesture demonstrates that she is keenly aware of the family and cultural dynamics at play and that some questions are easier to ask in private rather than in front of an audience. I came away from this workshop with the assurance that no matter what obstacles to college first come to mind, there are solutions to be found in the pink, yellow, and green handouts.

— Jimmy Coffey