Each January, the Joe Barnhart Scholarship Program brings back to campus former students who are seniors on their respective college campus to share their experiences. And the topic can be anything from bed sheets to time management.
The answers to college life’s questions are found during this event each year and will hopefully help the listening audience make the right choices when it comes their time to choose. And also to recognize light bulb moments – those moments when all the stuff you’ve been hearing from other people finally starts to make sense and you finally get it.
Freddie Rodriguez and Stella Sanchez, two juniors right now at JHS, experienced a few light bulb moments of their own during a session that morning. They really appreciated the financial aid tips and comments on how to use your free time wisely.
“I didn’t know colleges had financial aid offices,” exclaimed Stella. “I’m glad they told us to find and frequent those offices.”
The morning panel, made up of Mikela Lifland, Matt Ortega, Sonia Calica, Eric Soza and Audrey Jones, spoke to upper level English classes in an informal session. The afternoon classes were recipients of the same format, but different a panel – Jordan Gonzales, Mallorie Garcia, Matt Botello, Johnny Dang and Chad Bast.
Most currently attend Texas colleges or universities. Mikela just graduated from LIM College (Laboratory Institute of Merchandising) in New York.
“Do what makes you happy, and school becomes much easier” was one epiphany shared by senior recreation, parks and tourism major Matt Ortega.
Matt was addressing the issue of choosing a college major and was excited to have this opportunity to have a frank discussion with his alma mater. As an entering freshman at Texas A&M University, Matt chose chemical engineering for his major. After a time, he began struggling in some of his classes, and then realized he wasn’t enjoying the learning process anymore.
These graduates are obviously excited to return and share words of wisdom. During a moment between sessions, Mallorie Garcia said matter-of-factly, “We should talk about internships.” And immediately another frenzy of advice would spew forth from the college group. They have a variety of work experiences among them, and were more than happy to pass on the information to the next group.
Mallorie is a senior at St. Edward’s University studying to be an occupational therapist, and she made sure to also mention that “Working on campus helps make connections.”
That was when Matt Ortega let everybody in on how he chose the major he is studying now. During one summer off between college semesters, he had been working a summer camp when it dawned on him that he really liked working with youth and being in a social atmosphere.
“Duh,” whispered his former teacher whose class was listening to him now, “Matt was always involved with everything on campus. He’s a very social person.”
“I am so proud of these kids,” said Gina Latcham, BISD instructor for junior level English. It’s important that our current students hear these stories – hear that there will be setbacks and unpleasant experiences in college; hear that they can overcome them; and hear that there are plenty of good experiences too.
Eric Soza threw in this observation during the morning sessions: These years have the potential to be the best experience of your life.
Brenda DeLaRosa, program administrator and panel moderator for the event, asked each guest to introduce himself or herself to the audience, briefly stating who they were, where they were going to school and when they would graduate, and what their major was. Then she launched into a 45-minute question-and-answer session asking, “Was college everything you thought it was going to be?”
“You have to take care of things for yourself,” offered Johnny Dang after a moment of contemplation. And then continued almost as if to himself only… “You have to buy your food…you have to prepare your food…you have to do your laundry…”
“Learning to mature as a person was probably my biggest adjustment,” answered Chad Bast.
As the students continue to share information, the overall theme seemed not to be just the academics in which these students have gained wisdom but life experiences as well. How to study, how to manage time and why you should talk to college professors began to be interlaced with how to make friends, how to save money, how to be on your own.
“Get a planner!” interjected Audrey Jones, “Oh, and don’t go home every weekend. Make friends. And pick your battles. She marked off these points on her fingers as she talked. Then she just stopped and smiled. This once-reserved young lady, who is also engaged to be married, told the audience dramatically, “Take risks now (referring to exploring interests)! Because later you’ll be worrying about paying for a home, kids….life.”