On Sunday, September 27, Pathway Foundation held its 2020 Annual Conference. With the global coronavirus pandemic, the Annual Conference was held on zoom, with around 80 Pathway interns, parents, and other individuals ready to learn from this year's amazing keynote speaker. The overarching theme of this year's conference was community empowerment. Conrad Lee, an advisor for Pathway Foundation, gave his introduction to the attendees. Throughout the course of the conference, Conrad wanted Pathway interns to find their passion, their goals, and their purpose. He also introduced the keynote speaker. The keynote speaker for this year's conference was Robert Rose. Robert has a passion for empowering his own community, as well as others all around the world. He worked in Nepal, specifically with children with disabilities. He started the rose initiative Fund for Children, which was a small nonprofit that raised funds to help those with disabilities across Nepal. Rose also was the head of the project “Inspiration Playground”, which built a disability-inclusive playground in Bellevue, Washington. Another speaker at this year's annual conference was Karen Roper, who overviewed the college process and ways to make your college application stand out amongst the crowd. This year’s Annual Pathway Conference was full of learning, new discoveries, and new passions, all in the comfort of our own homes.
Mr. Rose graced us with a compelling anecdote. He mentioned the power of "pivoting his focus," or rather, a moment when one's civic-minded journey takes a U-turn. For him, that moment was a phone call. But "before we get there," Rose tells, us with a twinkle in his eye, "we need to start at the beginning." His beginning was an article in the newspaper about the Nepal Youth Foundation. He took a leap of faith and called them, offering to professionally photograph for their nonprofit. In that moment, he tells us, two things were racing through his mind: one, "what if they say no," and "but what if they say YES." The second thought was what landed him the job. When Rose was sixteen, he was an exchange student and spent eight months with an Indian family in Nepal. He felt comfortable, rode the bus to school every day, and made lots of friends. This trip had a dramatic impact on him. Rose recalls "you would see wealthy mansions with glass walls and you would see families living outside those walls, day to day, meal to meal." It made him think about why he was born into relative comfort whereas others were living in abject poverty. Rose says, a pensive look scrawled on his face, "this made me question my responsibility to humanity." When the foundation accepted his phone call, his civic-minded journey physically shifted. He visited Nepal again with the foundation for the first time in 1997. The foundation helps children, specifically disabled children, by giving them a safe home and education. Rose mentions some people in poorer communities thought "having a disability [meant one was] cursed or a sin of past life." He passionately furthered, "if you give someone with a disability and opportunity, they will thrive just as much as an able person," a statement that resonated with our interns. Rose's experience is a guiding facet of civic engagement today.
After the wonderful presentation by Robert Rose, we were able to get a brief overview of the Internship and Civics Club from current interns, Jared Hu and Kevin Yang.
The internship has personally taught Jared a lot about civic engagement, and has allowed him to connect with like-minded peers. The Pathway interns are able to learn and apply various knowledge and skills through various projects and events. We currently have five student-led projects, which include the Civic Club Network, Global Goals, Blog and Media, Digital Platform, and Bloodworks. Evidently, the internship is prompting change in the interns’ lives, and through projects, interns are able to take great leaps in civic engagement.
Next, we were able to get a word from Kevin on the Civic Club Network for Pathway. First, he answered the question, what are civics clubs? The primary goal of Pathway civics clubs is to teach the American Creed in highschools, which is the statement that defines American identity. This is a very important concept to the internship, and guides a lot of what we do. The clubs also aim to get our highschools more civically engaged, through things like student-led discussions and service activities. He also explained the two recent webinars that have been hosted, which were led by representatives from the various civics clubs.The first webinar was regarding Ethnic Struggles in America, and the second webinar was about Black Lives Matter. Both involved topics that were directly relevant to us at this time, and both hosted student-led discussions based on each topic. Kevin also explained that the civics club curriculum would be a centralized repository of all the curriculum created by clubs, and could be used as a database of curriculum that any of the civics clubs can use if they wish. Finally, he explained the application process of becoming an intern, and that anyone can join by simply going to Pathwayus.org, clicking the “become an intern” button, and by filling out a form.
The next presentation was given by Karen Roper, a returning speaker from previous conferences who is an expert in college admissions. Her own son graduated from Harvard Law School. For this year, she focused especially on the unique circumstances caused by COVID-19, and its impacts on admissions and applications.
Testing from the start of the pandemic all the way until now is very limited due to social distancing and safety concerns. Thus, many juniors and seniors aren’t able to take the SAT or ACT in time. Most colleges have decided not to require test scores this year. This means that even if a student takes one of the tests, they may choose to not send their score. However, not having a test score does mean that colleges will place more weight on the other sections of a student’s application. This includes their grades, extracurriculars, the rigor of classwork, personal essays, as well as interviews and teacher recommendations if the college takes those. It is likely that colleges will not be able to use any pass/fail scores that resulted from the pandemic, and therefore might look more carefully at freshman year grades. During the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year, it is also possible that some extracurriculars were paused, and colleges will be understanding of this fact.
Next, Karen Roper stressed the importance of standing out from other applicants. While being smart is important in getting considered, it does not help differentiate a student from others. Mindful of the internship’s high rate of Asians, she listed some stereotypes that may be expected from an Asian applicant. They include an interest in STEM, playing violin or cello, participating in tennis or track, and centering extracurriculars around technology, math or, science. Though it is fine to do these extracurriculars, it is important to show passion. The extracurriculars a student participates in should reflect their interests and intended major in college. Roper also noted that volunteering and genuine involvement in communities is also something colleges look for. According to Forbes, “assuming all factors are equal, then community service details are an important decision-making factor.”
Moving on to application dates, Roper discussed whether it is helpful to do early action or early decision. Since the 2020-2021 year is quite unique, she suggested looking at colleges’ websites to determine what advantages there are in applying early, as they might have changed from the previous year. From their websites, it may also be possible to discern what type of applicant a college might favor. Examples include women, athletes, and legacies. Some schools might also have added new sections to their applications, such as impromptu video prompts. It has also been rumored that schools that allowed a greater number of deferments from the 2019-2020 applicants may have fewer spots for new students this year.
Another important piece to consider in applications is the personal response section. Roper first addresses a few different topics that should not be mentioned, such as the class sizes, professor to student ratio, having a certain major, and love for a college’s campus. These are typically not unique to any one college, and seem insincere.
Besides writing applications, another aspect that students have to think about is choosing the right college. Some factors Roper suggests considering include whether the school is at the right difficulty. Being the best student in a class typically means a student isn’t learning as much as they could. And being the worst student would harm self-confidence and severely lower grades, while making college an unpleasant experience. Thus, it is important to choose a college where a student falls in the middle in terms of academic excellence. Many students also change their majors after entering college, even if they were very certain of their major beforehand. Choosing a big university with many majors would allow for an easier transition, and students are able to explore more possibilities before settling on a major. Not to mention, bigger colleges tend to have a greater variety of clubs and student activities. A smaller school would mean knowing all of the professors better, but it may also be more difficult to find a friend group. In this process, a student must also understand themselves and their preferences for learning. For example, do they prefer a big class size or smaller classes? Lastly, the location of the campus should also be considered when choosing a college. What’s the typical weather? How close is the college to a major city? What is the political climate there?
With so many different factors to consider and things to do, Roper also lists out the various responsibilities of the parents and the student. The parents need to be frank with their child about the family’s financial situation, and which schools will require aid or scholarships. They should allow the students to decide what sort of college they wish to apply to and resist the temptation to micromanage for deadlines and tasks. The college application process is already stressful enough, parents should do their best not to add to that stress. Students, on the other hand, are responsible for maintaining good grades throughout high school and establishing positive relationships with their teachers and counselors. They must figure out a few passions and pursue them through extracurriculars. Students should demonstrate their compassion, humility, and a positive mindset. They must own the college admissions process and be mindful of the deadlines.
Lastly, Roper ended on a few key takeaways. Students should do their best to keep their grades up, even through these uncertain times. They must be engaged in their learning, explore their passions, and participate in their community.
Overall, the conference left viewers with motivation to inspire change, whether on their own or through the internship, both in these unique times and in the future!
Interested in watching the conference yourself? Here's a recording!
Written by Melissa Lin, Ella Reedy, Megan Yi, and Neha Dubhashi