As a nonprofit organization, PeerForward succeeds with the help of service-driven volunteers. Volunteering at PeerForward doesn’t just help the organization and those we serve; it also brings meaning and purpose to our volunteers’ lives. Become a volunteer HERE.
Jaliza Collins works as a College and Career Readiness Specialist for Oakland Unified School District at Fremont High School. In her free time, she is a dedicated PeerForward Volunteer where she acts as a College Coach and chaperone. Being a first-generation college student herself, she understands the plight of many of our Peer Leaders firsthand. Her own personal experiences and her dedication to uplifting youths are driving factors in her desire to serve her community. We caught up with Jaliza to further discuss her time as a PeerForward Volunteer and the many benefits of postsecondary education.
What drives you to serve first-generation, low-income students?
They are me. I am a first-generation college graduate who was a low-income student while in high school and college. But, in all honesty, I just love working with young people. I’m blessed to be able to give them all the great things that were given to me and to also give them the support I never had. My understanding of having people fight for me in rooms I had no idea existed became a game changer when I became a young adult working with students; I fully understood what that meant. It clicked that I had to be the concrete so that they could pave the roads. I get up every day, even when I don’t feel my best, because there may be a student who is struggling more than me. My words of encouragement or my many jokes could mean that their school day is a little bit more tolerable. They may just need to cry in front of an adult who cares and as long as I have breath in my body and am able to do so, I never want to deprive any student of that level of care.
Please describe the impact of the PeerForward volunteering experience.
Oh man, where do I begin? I have cried more with students because other adults in their lives wouldn’t give them permission to be human than I have cried with my own students in the past 16 years of doing this work. I have met some of the most amazing, talented, funny, impactful people from volunteering with PeerForward; both students and adults. I have met some of my closest friends whom I couldn’t imagine life without because of PeerForward.
In your opinion, why should low-income students pursue postsecondary education?
Low-income students should pursue postsecondary education because they are a product for their hard work and not a product of their environment. Students can expand their viewpoints on their community and on the world by stepping out of their comfort zone and seeing if college is for them. It may not be right for them right after high school, but they will never know if they like it if they don’t try it. Process of elimination. Also, certain fields require higher education even if they are going into the trades. Trades are postsecondary education as well. Explore life outside of your neighborhood, city, or state. Explore views different from yours to strengthen or question what you know to grow into a more informed you. Take advantage of people paying for you to ultimate doing what you want or love!
Some responses have been modified for length and clarity.