Pre-College Retreat prepared freshmen Earl Woods Scholars for success
Each summer before freshmen Earl Woods Scholars begin their collegiate journeys, the program’s pre-college retreat, designed to prepare them for success, provides an array of information and resources throughout the three-day experience.
Joining three cohorts of 18 students from southern California and Washington D.C., the retreat took place primarily at the flagship TGR Learning Lab in Anaheim, CA.
In addition to workshops covering campus resources, financial literacy, mental health and mindfulness, scholars also engaged in opportunities to connect with their peers and build meaningful relationships through a ropes-based obstacle course and scavenger hunt-style activity called “The Ultimate Scholar Race.”
After two years of virtual retreats due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the return to in-person activities was special for students and staff alike.
“Logistically, it was completely different than what we had even pre-pandemic,” said Alma Gutierrez, Manager of Programs. “We used our creativity to enhance the program and help students get comfortable returning to in-person activities after two years of Zoom and virtual interactions. There was a huge difference from their first day, walking in with nerves not knowing each other, to their last day, saying goodbyes with long hugs to their new best friends.”
While the staff worked hard to plan a meaningful schedule of activities, support from internal and external volunteers also contributed to its success. Joining staff, mentors and community partners, Earl Woods Scholar alumni also returned to the Learning Lab to pay their experiences forward.
Bianca Angeles was a member of the first cohort of Earl Woods Scholars who graduated from the University of California Berkeley and has since supported first-generation students through various roles in higher education throughout her career. Using her knowledge and experience, Angeles led a workshop about how to find and take advantage of campus resources. In addition to valuable tips and information, she customized her presentation to include the universities each student will attend in the fall.
“Every student noticed when their college was represented, but when they found out she was an Earl Woods Scholar alumna from the original cohort their eyes lit up,” said Gutierrez. “They loved her presentation and gave her a standing ovation.”
Personalized support is a staple of the program that is strengthened by relationships between students, staff, alumni and mentors. A scholar panel held on the last day gave students an opportunity to connect with others who had been in their shoes and understand the challenges they have and will face.
Building on their connections the ropes course exposed a new level of vulnerability among scholars as they explored and acknowledged fears of beginning their college journeys ranging from academic failure, moving away from family, making new friends and more. The experience showed them their resilience and the support they have in their peers and the program.
“I know freshman year will be difficult,” said one student. “I learned to reach out for help and there isn’t shame on that and being able to prioritize yourself first, mentally and physically.”
Connecting the Earl Woods Scholar Program and flagship TGR Learning Lab to the significance of Anaheim, the Ultimate Scholar Race took students on a journey through downtown Anaheim. During the activity, they discovered elements of the city and culture with stops at the original Carl’s Jr. fast-food restaurant chain and the city’s timeline, including the Learning Lab’s groundbreaking.
Equipped with the information, resources and experiences from their retreat and an ongoing source of support from TGR Foundation and the Earl Woods Scholar Program, the freshman class of 2026 will soon begin their collegiate journey ready to soar.