Mentors guide Franklin First Scholars on their journey to college

At Franklin Community High School, 53 students have the opportunity to do what no one in their family has done before: go to college.

The First Scholars program, created by Franklin School Board member Ryan Wagoner and operated by Franklin Education Connection, is in its sixth year. Non-senior students make up the bulk of the program with 21 representatives. Each student is paired with a mentor, who walks them through the college application and financial aid process, but some mentors go beyond what the job requires, by visiting the college with students and supervising them outside of the scheduled monthly mentorship time. .

Jessica Huezca is one of those seniors. The child of immigrants from Peru and Mexico, she has worked with her mentor Tara Rucker since her first year. The two went to Chicago to visit Northwestern University last summer. Although there’s a lot of weight and expectation on his shoulders, Rucker helped make the process more manageable, Huezca said.

“It’s a bit scary. My family is made up of immigrants who came to the United States and didn’t even graduate from high school. They love that I do this and they just want me to have a better opportunity,” she said.

Rucker has also seen Huezca develop since first meeting his freshman year.

“When we first met, she was a lot more shy. There was a lot of ‘I don’t know’. She seems to feel a lot more confident,” Rucker said. “I give her ideas, like ‘if you want to do this, contact this company.’ I just give him ideas, I don’t put his finger on the keyboard. This was helpful to me as I also have an elderly person. He guided me on what to do. Thanks to the information presented by the FAFSA and the university visits, I also learned to guide my children. »

For others, like senior Anna Peyton, who plans to go to the US Air Force Academy and study biomedical engineering, the mentor is someone to confide in.

“I think (it helps) to have someone outside of your family, to have someone you can talk to on a personal level. Sometimes you can be too scared to talk to a counselor who doesn’t don’t know you personally. I consider her an older friend,” Peyton said. “I didn’t have anyone in my family to guide me through (the college application process), so it’s It’s great to have someone to guide you through. Your mentor is right there for you.

Shellee Pietras, Peyton’s mentor, finds the program stimulating.

“My favorite thing is coaching girls and women that you can do whatever you want,” Pietras said. “I’ve helped kids over the years, and the most rewarding part is making sure people know they can excel. ‘Go ahead, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.’

Lilly Wilson, also a senior, toured Butler University and Depauw University with her mentor, Franklin College English professor Susan Crisafulli.

“My mentor is amazing, she really helped me prepare for college. She helped me prepare for the SAT and she’s a really nice person to talk to, so that’s pretty neat,” Wilson said. “I feel very appreciated to have someone like that.”

Along with helping her mentee through the college application process, Crisafulli said she got to know Wilson on a personal level.

“Sometimes you get pressure from parents and younger siblings. Everyone places their hopes and dreams in you,” Crisafulli said. “I didn’t put a lot of pressure on (her) for college, but getting to know her and caring about her as a person is the most important thing.”

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