August 07, 2019

Earl Woods Scholar Program hosts Class of 2023 for pre-college retreat

As the newest member of TGR Foundation’s Earl Woods Scholar team, I hit the ground running this summer, taking part in one of our hallmark events, Pre-College Retreat. In July, our team welcomed 21 scholars from Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Orange County to the annual retreat in Southern California. Spanning three days, the Pre-College Retreat is an integral college-access program designed to prepare our scholars, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college, for their first year on campus.

Earl Woods Scholar Marquia Allen shows pride in being an Earl Woods Scholar while representing Carnegie Mellon University.

In the weeks leading up to the retreat, the Earl Woods Scholar team worked diligently revamping workshop curriculum, putting together materials for activities, inviting guest speakers and more. I participated in meetings where topics as small as ice breaker challenges were thoroughly discussed. As college-access professionals we want to create the best pre-college experience for our scholars.

Ice-breaker activities including minute-to-win-it helped students work together while getting to know each other better.

During the retreat, I had the opportunity to co-facilitate one of the workshops with my colleague, Betsy Peña. Earl Woods Scholars currently attending college were invited to share their experiences with our new cohort. While a range of questions were asked during this workshop, topics such as belonging on campus, choosing a major, positive study habits, mental wellness and relocating out of state were heard around the room.

Earl Woods Scholar Alumna Bianca Angeles, a member of the first cohort returned to lead a presentation on navigating campus life at the TGR Learning Lab and shared her experiences in the program.

As a majority of our scholars are first-generation and low-income, this workshop allowed them to hear directly from students who are in their shoes and reassure them of their ability to achieve success in college. I stood there with a smile on my face as one scholar told me, “This has been my favorite workshop so far.”

During an overnight stay at the University of California, Irvine scholars teamed up and participated in an “Amazing Race” Challenge.

Throughout the course of the retreat, I witnessed many of the scholars connect with one another, become more engaged in the workshops and share excitement for what was to come. Moreover, I experienced some students become better adjusted to the idea of being away from home; they get a small glimpse of this when we stay in the overnight dorms at the University of California, Irvine. As they continued to open up over the three days, their questions and stories revealed their resilience, drive, curiosity and empathy. Seeing this put me at ease as I knew they each had the capacity to be leaders on their respective college campuses and in the world.

On the last day, our scholars participated in a ropes course challenge where they learned how we quite literally “have each other’s backs” on this journey towards achieving higher education. As the retreat came to a close, many of the scholars expressed that the Pre-College Retreat has been a highlight of their time in the program.

Students were relieved after completing the ropes course.

As our scholars headed home to enjoy the last few weeks of summer before beginning their freshman year of college, it is clear that the Pre-College Retreat not only left the students feeling more prepared, but also gave them a support network of friends and mentors they can turn to for anything. As an instructor, the Pre-College Retreat has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had so far in my role. I look forward to seeing how far they soar and attending the next Pre-College Retreat in 2020.

Redefining what it means to be a champion.