By Cindy Cortez, college adviser for East Duplin High School in Duplin County, N.C.
As a college student from a small, rural town, the plan was always to move on somewhere bigger. Even when speaking to the few people I kept in contact with from the same area, that was our ego-lead goal. My last semester in college changed that perspective.
Taking in and analyzing all the different topics I was taught about and studied really helped mold a new attitude. Knowing that my education was coming to a brief pause, I let go of my selfish perception of my own rural town and began considering the ways I could truly give back to the community that helped raise me with the resources it had and the future students coming from this population.
A friend reached out to me about a job she heard of back in our hometown, and that’s how I ended up where I am now. Working in the county that I spent my whole life in has been rewarding in every way possible. Being able to be a present representative for the students in my community has not been easy, but it’s something I personally wish I had when I was growing up here. There are many students in our community who need someone like them to advocate for their right to be in these spaces.
The near-peer model is an effective method for these students to see that these things can be done and it’s okay to need help along the way—because we all need it. I can only hope that our assistance in these communities can help get these students, and generations to come, to maneuver and excel in various institutions of higher education.