Student Leader's Experience Taught her the Importance of Eliminating Barriers to College Access

By Kermina Wadeh, Bank of America Student Leader 2022

As a recent graduate of Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School, I was selected as a Bank of America Student Leader, where I have been serving as a paid summer intern with the Oasis Center. I have been able to connect with youth across middle Tennessee via the organization’s summer programs, learning about the role of nonprofits in our community, especially in times of reconciliation after a series of hardships. As a member of the Oasis team this summer, I have had the pleasure of assisting with the “behind the curtain” work of a non-profit organization and specifically with the Oasis College Connections Program.

I am a rising freshmen at Belmont University this Fall and having just been through the college admission process, I am realizing that the process itself isn’t being emphasized enough, leaving many students behind. I remember feeling clueless when I opened multiple tabs with scholarship opportunities and a video showing how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As a first-generation college student, I had no one to guide me when the college applications came knocking. But this Summer, I had the opportunity to share my experience with high school freshman and sophomores who are given the opportunity to learn about college preparation through the Oasis College Connections partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools.

I had the pleasure of working with the Promising Scholars Program, which is a learning program that offers MNPS students the opportunity to catch up over the summer, participate in ACT Prep, and gear up to apply for college. I worked with students at Pearl Cohn High School, where I learned the importance of making a complex process easier to navigate. I helped with creating a college spreadsheet with the contact information for Nashville representatives of all Tennessee colleges to provide students with access to resources within their college of interest. I also helped Oasis college mentors build a list of scholarship opportunities and tips for navigating the college process. Throughout the course of the program, we reviewed everything from the FAFSA to lessons on financial budgeting for a successful future to resume workshops.

In the few weeks of the class at Pearl Cohn, participating students were able to learn much more than what I was able to gather with months of research. Obtaining this kind of information well before it is time to apply for college ensures these students will be more prepared and will fully utilize their opportunities.

I was one of four Bank of America Student Leaders interning with Oasis this summer and my experience with the Promising Scholars program gave me a greater appreciation of how essential this work is in encouraging youth to continue their post-secondary education.

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