by Daniel Altamirano Hernandez
My name is Daniel Altamirano Hernandez (he/they/el/ellos) and I am an CCO AmeriCorps Alumni. I participated in a year of AmeriCorps VISTA service with Campus Compact of Oregon beginning in the Fall of 2019. Through their network I was placed at Portland Community College (PCC) Rock Creek Campus & the Hillsboro School District (HSD). The project I was assigned to centered around racial and educational equity, by creating supportive pathways for youth in our communities. This translated into the creation of The PATHE (Peer-Based Assistance for Transition to Higher Education) Program. The program created an environment to form mentor-based relationships between a current PCC college student and a current HSD graduating student. Together and guided by curriculum, the pair would meet as needed to navigate the higher education process.
One of the goals of AmeriCorps programs is to help others and meet critical needs in the community; and that is why these programs are so important and valuable. This COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our society in many ways, but for the PATHE Program, it was a call to action. Beginning in March, coaching and curriculum delivery was transferred to remote and online environments. In collaboration with the host site, I developed telework guidance that PATHE Coaches followed on a weekly basis to the end of the academic school year. We adapted our communications and created social media accounts to keep students connected over the summer, to lower the likelihood for summer melt. Due to this early plan of action, students were equipped with resources during the summer, which is post-graduation when they no longer have contact with their high school counselor.
The PATHE Program is currently in its last of it’s 3-year AmeriCorps grant cycle and will continue to support students on their journey to higher education. Previous focus and goals for the project differed depending on year; Year 1 was focused on developing a community & needs assessment and year 2 was focused on program creation and capacity building. The focus for year 3 is currently sustainability and outreach, to implement a standing program at the host sites.