Back to Episode # 3

college, high school, mai, students, minnesota, opportunities, explore, deshawn, pursue, university, question, classes, podcast, admission, social, admission counselors, talk, fafsa, financial literacy, public administrations
Liz Bolsoni, Intro, DeShawn Woods, Mai Chue Moua

Intro  00:00
Life After Now.

Liz Bolsoni  00:07
Hello and welcome to the Life After Now podcast. I'm your host Liz Bolsoni. I'm a communications studies major at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This podcast is a place for young people like you to gather information about education, and think about what it means for your life after now, you'll be able to connect with inspirational guests who have first hand experience and expertise surrounding education in Minnesota. Today I'm joined by DeShawn Woods and Mai Chue Moua. They're both postsecondary pathway coordinators at Get Ready. DeShawn works with Harding High School, home of the Knights, and Mai works with Como Park High School, home of the Cougars. Thank you both so much for joining me today.

DeShawn Woods  00:51
Thank you for having us.

Mai Chue Moua  00:51
Thank you for having us.

Liz Bolsoni  00:53
Could you both take a minute to introduce yourself.

DeShawn Woods  00:55
So my name is Deshawn Woods, and I'm originally from St. Paul, Minnesota. I have the honor of being a postsecondary pathways coordinator at Get Ready Minnesota. And I work at Harding High School, shout out to the Knights.

Mai Chue Moua  01:11
And then I'm Mai Chue Moua. I am a postsecondary pathways coordinator with the Get Ready program here in Minnesota as well. And I am a coordinator at Como Park High School, so shout out to the Cougars.

Liz Bolsoni  01:25
So I have a fun little icebreaker so that our audience can get to know you a little bit more. If you could both reflect on your high school experience and give your high school self some words of advice or positive affirmations, what would you say?

DeShawn Woods  01:39
DeShawn, stay true to yourself and believe in a process is going to work out the way it's supposed to.

Mai Chue Moua  01:46
I would say don't be afraid, get out and explore.

Liz Bolsoni  01:54
Nice, those are both very unique answers. Thank you for sharing. So we're going to start with some questions from our high school students. And the first question comes from Max at Sage Academy in Brooklyn Park. They want to know is it worth going to college if you don't have a plan in the future. Max says, "I don't know what I want to do in life. And I don't know if college or school after high school is even worth it."

Mai Chue Moua  02:21
I would say that if you don't know what you want to do, going to college after high school is actually a great reason. Because there in college, you get exposed to so many different opportunities. You get to take a variety of classes, you get to talk to students too, who also -- peers -- that don't know what they're doing, right. So you're really getting this great opportunity to go through that college journey with one another. And you're exploring your options together. I've worked with students at colleges before and I've actually been to college myself, too. I graduated from St. Kate's. And I remember, I had friends who were starting together. One didn't know what they were doing, and the other knew exactly what they wanted to do. Eventually two my friends actually decided to do the nursing program at St. Kate's. But they both went in very different directions. One wanting to do pediatric works, and the other wanted to work more in geriatric work, right. So more with the elderly. And so it was -- I would say don't feel pressured to know what you need to do. College is that opportunity for you to explore that. And as I said, don't be afraid to jump in and expose yourself to the various opportunities. Because it's a life changing experience. And if you don't know what you're doing, this is actually the time to go on and go to college and try it out.

DeShawn Woods  03:52
I echo with what Mai Chue said. I will simply add that it's important while you're in high school to explore all of your options. Because there's a clear difference between a two year school versus a four year school, a trade school even as an option as well. The cost -- making sure you you're weighing out the costs both on you and your family is very, very important. Honestly, while you're in high school, really going after the things that you're interested in, whether it's like going to summer camps over the summer and exploring like different things you might be interested in, whether it's IT or whether it's medical fields. You know, getting those experiences while it's free to you before you go into school and have to pay for it. So really exploring your options before you get to this point. But I agree with Mai Chue, definitely go to college. Absolutely. Because you got to learn so much about yourself, so much more about yourself when you get there. And sometimes once you get on campus things are awakened within you. You know, some -- I saw a lot of my friends become more activists when they got on campus because things that they really cared about, they really felt like they had a voice. And so they did more about things, as, you know, college students versus when they were high school students. But go to college.

Mai Chue Moua  05:13
And then one thing to add on to that as well, is that if you don't have a plan, per se, know that there's a lot of resources on college campuses to help you explore that. So career development centers, academic advisors. You can even talk to your admission counselors, right, during that initial application process. Ask them about the various programs that they have to offer and what makes their university or college stand out. Those are great ways for you to start getting an idea, right. And even if you are in high school, right now, as a 9th grader, or even a 10th grader, these are great opportunities for you to think about your strengths. Think about those classes that you are excited about, or you're passionate about. Why is it that you feel that way? Right? Those are, those are going to be great signs, right, to help guide you and lead you into thinking about plans for the future, whether that's to follow a particular career or pathway. Or if it's showing you that, you know "I actually really enjoyed doing volunteer work and social justice work. And I want to maybe take the year to do that after graduation and see what that's like." Just being really aware of those strengths, being aware of your passions, and using that information to help inform your journey.

Liz Bolsoni  06:39
So our next question, kind of similarly, is about being unsure about what to study in college, and Siham at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka says, "What if I don't know what I want to study." So if you could both speak a little bit about how you decided on what you wanted to pursue in college? Yeah, share a little bit about your experience choosing.

DeShawn Woods  07:04
So when I was in college, fun fact, I actually started out as my major was mass communications. My advisor at the time was like, after maybe a month or so on campus, he was like, "Maybe this isn't for you." And he didn't say it as it wasn't, like I wasn't good at it. But he was like, "You can be so much better. And you know, you can, you can grow more in a different major." So I went into public administrations, and public administrations is really the lifeblood of who I am. What I did with that, ultimately, after college was I've worked on numerous different political campaigns, which is very, very important because voting is so crucial and critical for really the well being of not only our communities and our families, but our nation. So that's one of the things that I had to go through when I went to college. But for me, honestly, what kind of got me, kept me in the field of like public administrations was being a part of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and really giving back to the community. And I really found that I have a passion and really a desire to see other people win, especially people who don't get a fair shake in life. So really being there for people in situations like I was, being, coming out of foster care, after 21 years in the foster care system, you know. So obviously, public service is in me, because this would [have] bred me so. That was my experience.

Mai Chue Moua  08:39
I'm actually, for me, I'm actually a first generation college student. So my parents never went to college. And the only things that they really knew to encourage me to pursue was. "Become a doctor, become a lawyer, or become a teacher." Those are the things that they knew, that, they knew that those are careers that you had to go to college for. And that's what they -- that was the kind of insight and feedback that they gave to me when I was looking at colleges or looking at what I wanted to do. Really, when I went to college, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I thought maybe I'd pursue business. I thought I would do nursing, but realized real quickly that I probably can't handle blood very well. So it was just those, those learning and growing pains of self discovery along the way that I realized and kind of narrowed down what I didn't like. And that really helped open my eyes to things that maybe I would actually like to do, too. And so I started looking at classes and just started taking things that I thought sounded interesting to me in college, and I landed on this course called Economics of Social Issues. Again, taking this course because I thought I was going to go into business. But in taking this class, it completely opened up my eyes to a plethora of other issues of social justice and realized later after talking to my advisor that, "Hey, this is actually a course that's required or, you know, suggested for the social work program. And it sounds like you're really interested in that social justice aspect, giving back to the community really addressing issues that can be you know, that can change people's lives. And maybe you should consider a social work program." So I started taking classes, and honestly, before I knew it, I was in my junior year. And then I was all pretty much done with the social work program. And I enjoyed every minute of it. The classes that I took, the teachers that I met, the experiences, it was awesome. And even though I'm not a social worker, per se, a lot of the skills and the work that I've learned from that program were so transferable to the work that I do in admissions work in the schools that I'm in. And so it, it was, it was awesome. It was an awesome experience. Kind of a roundabout way of, you know, coming full circle to what I'm doing now, but it was a great journey. And I've learned so much around it. And I think for me, it was just really being open to the experiences and really doing a lot of self reflecting along the way, too. Every time I was done with the class, checking in to say, "What was that experience? You know, what was that class experience? Like? What did I like about it? What did I like about it?" And that kept me going, that really kept me going. And I enjoyed it.

Liz Bolsoni  11:38
So Hakizimina from Janja High School writes, "I'm a new American who did not complete my university back in Rwanda. But I want to pursue my university degree in social work, and I need guidance and support." So maybe Mai Chue, since you pursued that social work path, what do you have to say to our student from Janja high school?

Mai Chue Moua  11:59
Yeah, no, great question. And I would definitely say first step is to reach out to that admissions office. Every college or university will have that admission office that will assist you through that application process, making sure that you're sending in the right documents for them to consider you for admission. As a student who has completed previous college coursework, most colleges would probably consider you a transfer student coming in. And so when they're asking you to submit your application materials, they'll ask for academic records from your past university or college. And then depending on the number of credits that you earned, or the length of time that you spent at that previous college, they may also ask for high school transcripts, or they may ask for a recommendation letters, in addition, as well. It's going to vary from college to college. But just from my experiences, like usually if students have less than a year's worth of college work, they were still asking for high school transcripts and high school records and test scores. For those students who maybe have completed up to two years or an associate's degree already, they might just be looking at your, your transcript from the university and college that you're transferring from. In some cases, students also have multiple universities where they've transferred back and forth from. So if you are applying to a college or university, oftentimes, they'll ask for all of your official transcripts to be submitted to them for admission consideration. So really just reach out to the admission offices that you're considering, and, or the admissions office at the universities that you're considering. And they'll they'll walk you through that process and let you know what needs to be submitted. But in terms of the social work program piece, you'll want to also ask about the various colleges and universities that offer social work program, right. Not all colleges or universities will have a social work program. There's also various pathways, too, that you can pursue with that. There are students who could do human resources or psychology, and then go on to like a graduate level social work program as well. Some students know exactly that they want to do social work. And we'll start off with the undergraduate program that has social work as well. So again, just really talk to the admissions counselors and maybe ask to meet with faculty member as well, to hear a little bit more about how they structure their program, and what might be a best fit for you. Because now there's also in-person, online options, hybrid options. So really taking those aspects into consideration too, as you're thinking about which college to apply to, and "How do I start getting those documents in so that I can be considered for admission?"

Liz Bolsoni  14:50
So we have a number of questions about affordability for college and Bailey and Demaryon from Sage [Academy], as well as Angie from Worthington High School, are all wondering like, how can I pay for college? And specifically, what is Minnesota doing to make postsecondary education more accessible for people who can't afford it?

DeShawn Woods  15:13
Yeah, I would start by simply saying, the first thing I'll address the last part of what you said. One of the things that our organization is doing, Get Ready Minnesota, is we're really working with students from middle school through the high school, for their time in high school, and preparing them for life after high school. And basically what the model is early exposure is what we're learning. Is exposing students earlier to the different postsecondary options, not just education, but options, whether that's going to the military, whether it's going to a two year school, or four year school, or whatever the case may be, the earlier we expose them to these things, we are starting to see the better, they're able to grasp, grasp these things, and ultimately be able to do something with them. Earlier in our conversation, I spoke about financial literacy. This is one of the biggest tenets that we're pushing. Because, you know, part of -- under this umbrella of financial literacy is paying for college. And that's very, very important. The biggest thing to remember when you're talking about looking for financial aid is FAFSA. Filling out the FAFSA is key, because that's going to open you up to the world of the money that are -- like loans, grants, and that kind of stuff. But you can always obviously start by applying for scholarships as well. And that's something you can do even while you're in the process of filling out your FAFSA. But most colleges, if not all, require that you fill out the FAFSA. So that's the first step. And then I would say, start filling out scholarships. Myself personally, when I was in high school, many moons ago -- shout out to class of 2009 -- so what I did my senior year was after I got out of school at 2:30, I went home and I literally started just applying for scholarships. And I utilized my guidance counselor because she would, Dia Yang, yep I did that, she would give me different applications to fill out, and I'd fill them out, and then I'll give them back to her and she'll melt them out for me. And so long story short, we were able to, I was able to win over $100,000 in scholarship money. So I really didn't take out any loans at all, when I went to the Winona State University. So that was helpful.

Liz Bolsoni  17:36
Our last question is, you know, this podcast is called Life After Now, and students now and before now have faced so many challenges in the past year. What advice or parting words do you have, as we look forward to the future?

Mai Chue Moua  17:55
Yeah, I know with this year COVID brought about a lot of challenges for families and students. And, you know, I think for me, personally, just the quarantine and isolation was probably one of the hardest things. And I would say this is, this is the time really, to not squander your opportunities, right? If anything COVID has taught us and has reaffirmed that we need to take advantage of the opportunities and really engage and just throw ourselves completely into that moment. Because when you can't, oh my gosh, it's suffocating, right? And so I would say don't squander the opportunities. Now that we are kind of on the upward trend here from the pandemic, this is your chance to really go out there, to really take, you know, take the bull by the horns, so to speak, right. And really just dive into all the opportunities and enrich your life and your experience as much as possible.

DeShawn Woods  19:06
So one of my favorite quotes is, "Don't wait for the world to recognize your greatness, live it and let the world catch up to you." I think that's so important. And it goes back to my earlier point which we opened the podcast with, which is believing yourself. Like you are so much greater than you will ever imagine. But you got to remember that at the end of the day, you have to stand and make your own decisions for yourself and make the best decisions that you can. You won't always have the best information to make the most informed decisions but you have to make a decision and move in that direction. And always hold yourself accountable. Not in, like a, not in an unhealthy way, but just being willing to say, "You know what, I made a mistake. Let me you know, reflect on this and recalibrate and go at it again."

Liz Bolsoni  19:53
So DeShawn and Mai Chue, thank you both so much for joining me today and answering some questions about the college application. process and also giving some motivational words to our high school listeners. I appreciate both your time.

DeShawn Woods  20:08
Thank you so much for having us.

Mai Chue Moua  20:09
Thank you.

Liz Bolsoni  20:10
I also want to give a quick shout out to our listeners. Thank you for spending some time with us today. This podcast was brought to you by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. I encourage you to dig into the resources mentioned in this episode, but you can find in the show notes on our website at Make sure to follow this podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts, so that you don't miss any future episodes. Until next time, everyone I'm Liz Bolsoni. Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay ready because you all are the future.

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