"I see storytelling at the core of the college application process," says Educational Theatre alum Amalia Schiff, a theatre teacher at The Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice in New York City. She also teaches the public high school's College and Career Prep course which provides students, many of whom are BIPOC, help understanding the college application process.
"College applications often ask students to share deeply personal stories that might make them feel vulnerable. Much like I do ensemble building activities in my theatre class to build trust and create a safe learning environment, I do the same in the college and career prep class," she noted.
In 2018, Schiff (BS 2013) volunteered with NYU's FOCUS Mentorship Program through the Center for Multicultural Education & Programs because, she noticed that "in the college access world, there's a lot of emphasis on the application process but limited focus on the transition to and start of college."
"I saw a former mentee struggle to make it through his freshman year of college," remarked Schiff, "so I wanted to support students at NYU as the experience is extremely unique."
NYU's FOCUS program pairs first-generation college students of color with mentors who are NYU alumni, faculty, staff, and graduate students and interested in helping the students acclimate to life at NYU.
The NYU students have become mentors to my students. Many of my students expressed their gratitude for getting the additional support and guidance from someone who recently went through the process. It was meaningful to learn from someone they could relate to.
Then, in June of 2020, Zev Chissick (Education Studies BS '23) reached out to her to see if he and two of his two classmates from the "American Dilemmas" course, Wren Sutterfield (Tisch '20) and Amelyn Mora (HEOP/CAS '22) could support her students. They had previously volunteered with Schiff in 2019 and wanted to continue. They created presentations on college essays, the Common Application, EOP/HEOP programs, and scholarships. They presented for over 100 seniors over the period of two weeks. In addition, they also arranged individual Zoom sessions with nearly two dozen students to edit college essays and review applications.
Schiff hopes that the partnership between NYU students and her students in the Bronx will continue: "The NYU students have become mentors to my students. Many of my students expressed their gratitude for getting the additional support and guidance from someone who recently went through the process. It was meaningful to learn from someone they could relate to."