At Mount Wachusett Community College, Gateway to College resource specialists put on a Gateway Student Panel during the new student three-day orientation in which both returning students and alumni share their experiences about what it's like to be in the Gateway to College Program at MWCC. The objective is to give incoming students a look at what Gateway is like from an experienced student's perspective. Eden Shaveet tells her story of serving on the student panel.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from my advisor asking me to partake in a panel for the incoming Gateway to College students at Mount Wachusett Community College. I agreed, of course, and cleared my calendar.
The day of the panel, I dressed to the nines and carried my business card in my pocket like the real grown-ups do. When I arrived on campus, I sat with the other student panelists in a resting area near a lecture hall and talked about the lives we’ve lead since we had all last been together. When we entered the room in which the panel was going to be held, I sat down in a chair and went through my daily motions: I checked my MWCC staff email and confirmed my attendance at the events and meetings occurring later in the week. I adjusted my schedule, texted my co-worker to solidify details of an event we were set to facilitate on campus, and I double-checked to make sure my calendar was set to “busy” for the next two hours so that there would be no disruptions throughout the duration of the panel. When I put my phone down and looked up, I realized that nearly 30 pairs of eyes were glued to me.
Some faces were familiar. I recalled interviewing them earlier in the summer to determine whether or not they were cut out for the program. By the nervous waves and smiles I received, they seemed to recognize me too.
As I sat there, looking out over everyone, I felt a sort of discomposure that I couldn’t quite explain. It was a feeling very similar to the one I felt the day I attended my own panel as an incoming student, and watched as returning and former Gateway students opened up about their personal experiences in college. I remember being 17, watching them from the back of the room, and making it a point to remain as distant from social interaction as possible. My attention, however, was continuously being grabbed by one student panelist whose undeniable confidence resonated with me. She was a girl who had made a name for herself on campus, who spoke with a kind of certitude and conviction that both terrified and intrigued me. I was scared of her. I admired her. I envied her.
And now, as I sat in front of all these new, anxious faces, I was her.
So many things have happened within the course of a year. In fact, I sometimes find it difficult to believe that it’s only been a year since my journey in the Gateway to College program began. Perhaps that’s why I found it so strange to look out over the new faces of Gateway; I remembered that only 12 months ago, I was in their position – anxious, unsociable, and wondering how anyone like me could possibly succeed in the college environment.
Looking out at these new students, I felt for them. I wanted to be their friend and to guide them through this new chapter of their lives, but I also recognized that in order for them to grow as individuals and students, they will need to discover and face these challenges themselves.
And while I’m excited to witness how their journeys unfold from the sidelines, I want them to feel comfortable approaching those of us who have been in their position before.
I want them to know that I’m on their side.
Eden Shaveet is a Gateway to College student from Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts. She is an LAS major looking to pursue further degrees in psychology and neuroscience, and currently works as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement out of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.