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How Sharon Dirksen’s passion for supporting students led her to become a PeerForward Volunteer


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Meet this week’s Volunteer Spotlight: Sharon Dirksen! Sharon has always been passionate about helping others, which is made clear by her career path and volunteering efforts. She studied biology in college and went on to receive her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Rochester.


Last year, Sharon dedicated time out of her summer to be a PeerForward Volunteer, acting as a writing coach. On her LinkedIn page, she shared a bit about her passion for supporting students: “The time I have spent over the years, mentoring students and colleagues, has reinforced my motivation to allocate time, in a professional or volunteer capacity, to supporting students as they navigate college/graduate school and make important choices that will affect their futures.” We caught up with Sharon to ask about her experience as a PeerForward Volunteer and why she chose to serve:


Sharon Dirksen at a 2023 PeerForward Workshop

What drives you to serve first-generation, low-income students?

I just strongly believe that all students who have the desire to progress their education should not be hampered by restrictions due to finances. I also love working with students and encouraging them to have confidence in themselves.

Please describe the impact of the PeerForward/College Summit volunteering experience.

This experience provides a crucial platform for students and alumni to support and encourage each other, and it allows volunteers to coach these students and give them access to information they need to take the next step and be their own advocates. Working with these students one-on-one gave me insight into their unique struggles and permitted me to establish meaningful dialogue with them that I believe impacted their ability to express themselves.

In your opinion, why should low-income students pursue postsecondary education?

Post secondary education is not for everyone. There are many students – regardless of income- who do not want to further their education and prefer to take another route in their careers. But for those who want to pursue post secondary education, their experiences and insights bring more diversity into the educational system and serves to create leaders in the professional workforce who have a more broad understanding of societal needs.

Sharon Dirksen with other PeerForward Volunteers.