Orientation Coordinators: Paving the way for this summer’s NHI students
This article is by Tomas Miriti Pacheco.
Throughout the National Hispanic Institute’s transition of the Collegiate World Series and Great Debate to a digital platform, one of the greatest struggles has been ensuring that participants are prepared to embark on the rigorous journey that both the shift and the programs themselves present.
To ease that process, NHI Senior Vice President over Education and Training Julio Cotto created a new Orientation Coordinator position. Volunteers filling that position reached out to students days ahead of the program’s start to ensure that they had the tools to fully engage with all the resources NHI has to offer.
“My best experience as an OC would be the times I set up Zoom meetings with my group,” said Jareth Quintero, a current University of North Texas who trained with NHI while at Judson Early College Academy in Converse, Texas.
“I liked these moments because it not only helped the kids place a voice with a face, it helped the kids know that they were not by themselves and they are many others in their situation,” noted Quintero, who was an OC for both the CWSx and the GDx Communities programs. “The family aspect of NHI was beginning to grow before the program even started.”
Though creating such moments was sometimes a challenge, Quintero was motivated to return to the position because of what those challenges taught him about the position. “Even if there were issues with just trying to contact a participant, that first initial reaching out to them was an ice breaker in and of itself. What I mean by that is, as an OC you are already beginning to introduce the participant to an immersive disruptive learning environment.” His understanding of this is no small part informed by his own recent graduation, having completed the CWS himself only a year prior.
For another 2019 graduate, Alissa Hernandez, who went from Veterans Memorial High School in Corpus Christi to the University of Houston, being an OC allowed her to be a reassuring presence for her orientation group. “I wanted to remind these students that during these bizarre times someone is thinking of them and reaching out to them to help make their digital program as special as possible,” she said. “I loved reassuring our participants that they are not missing out on the traditional face-to-face experience but rather they are creating their own unique digital experience that no NHIer had gone through before.”
To Alexis Alvarado, a 2020 graduate of IB at Lamar Academy in McAllen, and starting at University of Texas in Austin next week, watching students embody this approach drove her to continue as an OC for both the first and second CWSx.
“I was contacting a participant who was very behind on CWS and did not know what was going on, but after talking to her over the phone, answering her questions and making sure she knew when everything was due, she showed up to the program ready to perform and was one of the best scoring individuals there,” she recalled. “It made me proud to see that I helped her reach her goals during the program by being that first support system.”
Just like the students they served, each Orientation Coordinator also faced a novel challenge, but by following the principles and community of spirit of NHI, each found the confidence, determination, and heart to give participants the support they needed heading into NHI’s first summer of digital programming.
The 2020 GDx Programs were sponsored in part by State Farm and Union Pacific.