Imagining The Future!

Imagining yourself attending college, being a leader in the STEM field, or having the power to shape an organization can seem beyond reach for a young person of color.  This spring at Canopy, we are engaging students in imagining their future in three different ways – learning, leadership and long-range planning.

First, learning: elementary students are learning about being policy-makers affecting climate change through fun science experiments. Leadership: Canopy’s Student Leadership Council is giving elementary and middle school students the opportunity to see leaders of color in action. Finally, middle school students are engaging in long-range planning as they begin to imagine themselves attending college. 

I am so grateful for Canopy’s college staff, Jannah, Olivia, Paulina, Sophia, and Isatou -they are working part-time at Canopy while being full-time students at the University of Washington. They planned and led our field trip to the UW, and have written the story that follows. They are brilliantly deepening the impact of tutoring for the students at Canopy.

– Lynn, director of Canopy Scholars

A Day at the University of Washington

by Jannah,  Olivia, Paulina, Sophia, and Isatou, Canopy’s college staff

“College students are regular people just like me”

Our goal in bringing our middle school students to the University of Washington was to give them a vision of going to college. For young students of color, the idea of attending college seems daunting and out of reach. The price and prestige of large universities creates the idea that higher education is reserved for the elite. Our middle school students are currently navigating these feelings, questioning if college is an option for them and not knowing if they even belong in that environment.

As people of color pursuing a higher education ourselves, we understand the challenges that young students of color may face, but we also know firsthand that it is possible to thrive in an academic setting. We wanted to show our students how we found a sense of belonging at the University of Washington and demonstrate how they can too.

One of our students shared a profound observation during our stop in the school cafeteria. As he looked around at the college students eating lunch, studying, chatting with friends, and simply going about their day, he said, “College students are regular people just like me.” With this field trip, we were able to show our students that higher education is not reserved for the elite. Anybody can achieve a college degree, and their unique and diverse voices belong in a college environment.

Our first stop was to an engineering lab to learn about 3-D printing. We were hosted by AVELA (A Vision for Electronic Literacy & Access), a group of underrepresented minority students at the University of Washington who are passionate about bridging the opportunity gaps in the education system. Scientists of color bring unique perspectives and experiences to their research, which can lead to more innovative and comprehensive solutions to scientific challenges. 

Our students want to be doctors, engineers, and computer scientists, but cannot envision themselves pursuing these careers due to the lack of representation within STEM fields. During our stop at AVELA, students were able to see diverse people in a lab setting and be inspired by their technical expertise.

We visited the Ethnic Cultural Center, part of the UW’s Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity. The Ethnic Cultural Center promotes equal opportunities for all students, including underrepresented and first-generation students of color. Walking into a classroom full of people who don’t look like you is incredibly isolating, and at large universities such as UW, it can feel impossible to find community. The ECC provides a place to come together with similar people, learn about the diverse communities on campus, and find resources.

“This feels like another world to me, it’s fun to be here”

The UW admissions office engaged the students in a fun discussion about the value of going to college and the steps they can take to get there. With many of our students being the first generation to attend the American school system, the college application process is foreign. This presentation, tailored specifically toward middle school students, answered their questions and dispelled common myths about the application process. For instance, students learned that while grades are important in college admissions, they represent just one aspect of a multifaceted application. Students can make their applications stand out with their unique experiences and stories. 

Science Experiments

As part of our ongoing Climate Challenge theme this year, Canopy’s elementary students did a science activity about greenhouse gasses. They learned greenhouse gasses are like a blanket around the Earth that traps heat and makes it warmer. To picture the gasses, the students created models of the molecular structure of nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, oxygen, hydrogen, and methane. The materials they used for these models were candy and toothpicks!

Student Leadership Council

We have 78 stellar tutors at Canopy – they are smart and fun and are engaging kids in learning. They are also in high school and invested in equity and social justice. We’re seizing the moment. We’re empowering three of these tutors to be on our (new) Student Leadership Council. Misgana, Olivia, and Meiron help us analyze lead programs to make tutoring deeper and better.

Misgana, Olivia, and Meiron, Student Leadership Council

The Student Leadership Council developed and led a Skills Workshop for the 6th graders, coaching students on using a planner, navigating online school portals, time management, effective study skills, communicating with teachers, and choosing classes with college in mind.

The Student Leadership Council gives our elementary and middle-school students the chance to see leaders who look like them with the power to shape an organization. Misgana, Olivia, and Meiron are getting the chance to develop skills in communication, analysis, and leadership.


The Canopy community needs YOUR support!

We’re looking for some amazing volunteers from our community to support our upcoming Bloom Spring Event and a special Canopy Connections fundraising campaign!

  • Bloom Spring Event, June 15 Can you donate your time to help set up for this event on the evening of June 14, or to play an important role in the event itself on June 15?
  • Canopy Connections fundraising campaign: As a fundraising prelude to our spring event, we’re ditching the traditional auction of goods and replacing it with a chance to do good by connecting members of our community! Here’s our vision: Community members will donate their time doing the things they love and are skilled at, and other community members will bid on those offerings and get to know another member of the community while benefiting from their expertise! What are you good at that you want to share? Cooking, gardening, sailing, soccer, knitting, singing, juggling — the possibilities are endless!

Canopy college staff: Olivia, Isatou, Jannah, and Paulina, (Sophia is not pictured).

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