The transition from high school to college is something that students look forward to and work hard to achieve for years. As with many rites of passage during the pandemic, this long anticipated change looked much different than expected for many incoming college students. 

When access to a computer is essential to thrive in online learning, financial strains on families from the pandemic put a new laptop out of reach for many taking the next step in their educational journey. Fortunately with generous support from Nordstrom, United Way of Greater Los Angeles was able to provide 9 thousand dollars in devices to more than 15 students. Every high school senior within the Young Civic Leaders Program (YCLP) who did not have a computer was given one so they could participate in college from home.

Oscar, a 2020 graduate from Linda Esperanza Marquez High School, started school at UC Santa Barbara last Fall and is pursuing a degree in psychology. He characterizes the transition from high school to college as “disappointing, but understandable.” 

“These are unprecedented times and I believed I would be on campus hands-on learning, but instead, I am doing school online currently with no choice,” Oscar states. 

Hyewon, also a recent graduate, finished her senior year virtually at Alexander Hamilton High School. She will be attending USC this Spring, and is currently taking courses at LACC. 

“Surprisingly, the transition from high school to the first semester of college wasn't as bad as I thought it would be,” Hyewon said. “There is still a part of me that is adjusting from in-person classes to a full-on online experience but overall I was able to find some thoughtful and caring professors.” 

In the midst of this transition, Oscar has focused on staying physically and socially healthy. He credits his perseverance, UWGLA and the YCLP as critical sources of support.

“The laptop has been a great resource for my studies as it has allowed me to invest in my education.” Oscar said. “YCLP and United Way can continue spreading important information about resources and current world events because there are students that need it the most.”

Though he isn’t particularly happy with the arrangement, Oscar has flourished through his computer screen. 

“The experience is not as enriching as in person class, but if you try to put in that effort and see past the negatives that are not in your control, then you can get the most out of something, and in this case, it's education.”

Before she was given the laptop, Hyewon and her sister shared one, which can be difficult since they both needed to be online for schooling. At the peak of her hardship, YCLP and Communities in Schools helped her transition to be supported with a new laptop which has made things much better.

As Hyewon continues her transition into college in the midst of a pandemic, she credits her family and YCLP for helping her stay positive in these uncertain times. 

“I remember during the first few quarantine months it was when I was spending my last few days as a senior at YCLP. Kat and Shekinah from Communities in Schools reached out for my well being and even provided additional help with the challenges my family and I were facing during the pandemic,” Hyewon said. 

Hyewon found out about YCLP via Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), an organization that provides underserved youth with free, exceptional programs in academics, arts and athletics within a nurturing environment.

“YCLP really caught my eye because during that time my work in the community was also focused on social justice and advocacy in the Los Angeles area,” Hyewon remarked. “Joining in, I met really supportive individuals and like-minded students who were so passionate and caring about community issues and the staff was also super inclusive and welcoming. ”

Although Hyewon is not a morning person, she said she knew that her Saturday mornings at YCLP would leave her with deep-rooted conversations and thoughts. She mentions that she is  so thankful for the experiences she had at YCLP.

“Just the idea of being in a community where I was able to learn and grow really gave me strength as a minority and especially residing in such a busy city,” Hyewon said. “The amount of support YCLP provided really made me say: "wow I should really encourage my little sister to join. I hope that this program continues to exist and share the wonderful opportunities they have in store!" 

Hyewon is still amazed that YCLP and UWGLA strives to continue to find more ways to support and aid students in any possible way. 

“I believe that just continuing that momentum and support will go a long way to so many other students who are also feeling the same way of disappointment on the current issues our society is facing or even curiosity of learning about their community,” she said.

We are honored to help these students on their journeys into adulthood. This is a very difficult time and a sensitive transition. We are grateful to have the opportunity to help YCLP students.