I was unimpressed.
That’s how I felt when I met Ms. Marlowe for the first time.
She gave a college advising presentation to my English class. Throughout the presentation, she highlighted the many things we’d have to do in order to get into college. She told us that we needed to make a resume, take the SAT, get an account on CollegeBoard.com, write our essays, etc.
To be frank, I was already familiar with most, if not all of this. I was not intimidated by the process involved because I had spent time asking my college friends about the application process. I had also independently researched a lot of this information.
Ms. Marlowe told us about herself and the fact that she went to UNC-Chapel Hill. She told us of the 23% (or so) acceptance rate. I remember clearly that at this point, my entire class expressed awe. She must be really smart in order to have gotten in there!
I was not daunted. I already knew Chapel Hill’s acceptance rate. And I also knew it was a lot higher than many of the schools I was looking at. Many top schools like Yale or Columbia had acceptance rates around 10%! Did my classmates not know that?
I was unimpressed.
When Ms. Marlowe left our class, I was only happy about the time she had taken out of our lesson that day.
I was unaware at that point that as I would get to know her during the school year, I would have a different mentality about the things she did and said. By the end of the school year, I was in awe of her.
She would eventually not only provide me with some information I hadn’t picked up on before, but she would also eventually inspire me with her compassion and perseverance. The problem was that when I first met her, I did not appreciate the value of her work. I did not see that her intentions were not to impress or intimidate anyone, but to reach out to a struggling school and implement a culture of college achievement.
I can’t pinpoint an exact event that made me realize that she was truly doing something good. It happened over time. When I saw how much patience she had in dealing with what were (frankly) overwhelmingly simple questions, I admired her. When I saw how often she was not even in her office because she was out doing things that benefited not only me but my entire school, I admired her. When I saw how often she had to painstakingly deal with obstacles in order to carry out her mission, I admired her. When she never stopped trying to get in touch with our principal in order to plan festivities for students accepted into college, I admired her. When she was willing to talk to other students and myself about non-college related problems, I admired her.
Throughout all this, I decided that I would have to do something in order to give back to the community, just as she was giving back. Frankly, I did not know what I would do exactly, but I know now that if I hadn’t personally witnessed the effects and the value of her work I may never have considered working with high school kids.
It’s worth noting that because this program brought Ms. Marlowe, a person who gave me something more than college advice, to my school, I was more than ready to be the person that spoke of the positive impact she had on the school. I wanted to be the person that spoke of the positive impact she had on me.
I’m glad I did that. This program, through Ms. Marlowe, inspired me to really give something back to other high school kids that needed someone for college advice or needed someone for the same reasons I did: the need to value the work that individuals like Ms. Marlowe put forth in order to help out a community.
Though I initially said I’d never do this, I plan on going back to my high school now and then and talk to anyone that needs college advice or anything else. I want to make a positive impact like Ms. Marlowe did. Because of this, I am now also working with the Penn Catholic Student Association as a college adviser for seniors at West Philadelphia Catholic High School. Even if I am not getting paid and it takes some time out of my day, I know the work that I am doing is worth more than that.
It suffices to say that when I think of Ms. Marlowe now…
I am impressed.
Author: Jonathan Rosales, Vance High School ’12, University of Pennsylvania ’16
College Adviser: Shaniqua Marlowe, 2nd-Year Adviser at Zebulon B. Vance High School