Sandra Parra ’19 is a first-generation college student from Tucson who had never visited Vermont until she landed at Burlington airport a few days before classes began at Green Mountain College last fall. Now in her second year at GMC, she’s using the lessons she’s learned in adjusting to college life to help others make the transition.
“I was in the Upward Bound program in Arizona, which helps high school students prepare for college—everything from financial planning to filling out applications,” she said.
Initially, Sandra planned on attending the University of Arizona in Tucson, but one of her friends and fellow volleyball player who had committed to GMC, and urged her to come with her to Poultney. Sandra’s Upward Bound counselors were supportive. “They encouraged me to take a risk and get out of my comfort zone, so to speak.”
She’s happy she made the decision—she says GMC is like a second home to her now.
Last summer she returned to her Upward Bound program in Tucson, tutoring students in math and organic chemistry and counseling them about their own college aspirations.
Now she’s picking up some valuable research experience this fall with three professors (Jennifer Sellers (psychology), Heather Keith (philosophy), and Drew Bentley (adventure education)). Their project involves administering a series of surveys of first year students about programs designed to aid students in the transition to college life.
“For example, students in our first-year seminars participate in a half-day experience at our challenge course aimed at helping them to set and achieve personal and community goals with their classmates as they progress through their first semester. Our study is designed to help us gauge the effectiveness of this and other programming.”
One of the first lessons Sandra imparts to new students is the importance of getting involved. She plays as a setter on the College’s volleyball team and plans on participating in the InterCultural (ICC) club and UNICEF this year. She has big ambitions for a career in medical research, studying the biological basis of mental disorders.
“Jen Sellers helped me apply for an NIH (National Institute of Health) scholarship last year and I was a finalist,” she said.
Not one to give up easily Sandra is planning on applying again this year.
“Hopefully the research experience I get will make a difference this time.”