The furious scribbling of pencils on paper, fingers tap tapping on keyboards, and brains a-whir with self-reflection: these are the sounds of dedicated high school seniors working on their personal statements. Every fall 826 Valencia hosts the Great San Francisco Personal Statement Weekend, which provides one-on-one college essay tutoring for students in local public schools.
This October 17 and 18 about 170 students from across the district and 170 volunteer tutors from all walks of life passed through the doors of Mission High School, where we hosted the event. The computer labs were buzzing with energy as students and tutors discussed everything from formative life experiences to sentence structure. None of this would have been possible without our awesome volunteers who devoted hours of their time to helping students brainstorm, revise, and edit their personal statements. One student explained the power of this experience, saying, “It was nice to have someone focused on helping me and being with me for two hours to work out the messiness of the writing process. I’m just really glad I didn’t have to do that alone.”
- “Having a tutor made me realize that a lot of times I lost my own voice in my writing. I learned that I should convey a purpose for each of my paragraphs, and sentences as well.”
- “I was able to learn that being specific and going in depth on the important events that changed my life is really important in order to spark the readers mind. You have to write uniquely and passionately in order to make the essay stand out.”
And some reflections from our intrepid tutors:
- “Her personal statements showed that she was playing it safe and sticking to what she thought someone would want to read, but once we got her thinking about subjects she really cared about, she lit up and got very excited about writing. I love to see the light bulb go off when kids get excited about telling the story only they can tell!”
- “My favorite moment was when my student talked about her love of art, which was not something that she had intended to write about. She said she didn’t know how it related to her essay, but we eventually found that it was an integral part of why she wanted to pursue a degree in engineering – to create beautiful things that everyone could enjoy.”
Students, we are so impressed with all of your hard work and the progress you have made on your personal statements! Good luck with the college application process.
And of course, a HUGE thank you to everyone who made this event so impactful and special. Thanks to Mission High School for generously hosting us in your computer labs and classrooms yet again. Many thanks to our friends at Whole Foods, Clif Bar, and Four Barrel Coffee for donating the sustenance that kept everyone energized all weekend! A very special thanks goes out to the Super Bowl 50 Fund for supporting Personal Statement Weekend and honoring our Executive Director, Bita Nazarian, as a Playmaker in our community. Check out the sweet video they made about college access at 826, featuring Bita and longtime 826 parent and volunteer Carmela Gomez.
Though the weekend may be over, there are still plenty of opportunities to stay involved. If you are not registered but had such a blast tutoring that you want to stay involved you can register as a volunteer or learn about other ways to help here.