After going through CAN's program as a student, Josh is now serving as an AmeriCorps College Coach at Federal Way Public Schools! Check out his guest blog post below:
My name is Josh! Depending on where I’m working, I either go by Jay, Jojo, or whatever name comes up! I am a Filipino, Seattle-born, first generation college graduate. My parents, before moving to America, didn’t have a college degree, so it was a huge goal of mine to go to college and succeed for them! Asides from being a CAN coach, I’m also a musician, audio engineer, and stage manager for live-theatre.
Back in high school, I got involved in CAN through some mutual friends! One day I overheard a conversation about a program that helped out with college applications and financial aid, so I went in to ask if they were still accepting students. Luckily, they were and the rest was history! I remember wanting to apply to the University of Washington (UW) for their mechanical engineering program. I used to think it would’ve been cool if I went with what other people did, and a lot of people around me were shooting for some sort of STEM-field. It could’ve been an option for me, except, I didn’t really excel in either math or science.
That all changed when I joined CAN, where two coaches encouraged me to apply to other schools and figure out my own study options. They set me up with a plan in applying to more in-state schools, 2-year colleges, music auditions, and they even helped me apply for a few scholarships! After months of sessions, peer-reviewing, and much-needed appointments with my coaches, I was eventually awarded with two scholarships, several college acceptance letters, and a concrete plan!
By being able to take on that first step to college success, I knew this was going to be groundbreaking for my family since I would be the first to go to college! I was able to get accepted into some 4-year colleges, but was also rejected by some. Thankfully, after some consideration, I chose the transfer route because I knew, overall, it would be cheaper for my family. Just being able to go to a college, in general, was enough for me. I started out by going to Seattle Central College, in hopes of transferring over to UW.
Initially, I studied music because it was a growing passion of mine since childhood. I was already an active musician within the local Filipinx-American community. At Seattle Central College, I took advanced drumming lessons that refined my drums/percussion skills and I performed numerous times with the Seattle Central Jazz Ensemble. I also took the opportunity to jam around a few jazz clubs with other local jazz musicians.
Going into my second year, however, I wanted to pick out other options in case music didn’t work out for me. I began taking several science courses and eventually I found myself enjoying psychology and biology! I was able to meet wonderful professors at Seattle Central, who suggested the field of music psychology and the study of perceptions, so I reapplied to the UW and was fortunate enough to get accepted that same year!
Once I got into UW, I picked up several courses that tailored to what was suggested to me back at Seattle Central and managed to get into both the Psychology and Music departments. I was starting out my third year of college wanting to combine both my psychology and music studies. This was when I found out about DXARTS, which was UW’s experimental art program, where I was able to create cool immersive sound-art pieces, and consider research work in the future for practices in musical therapy. As my fourth and fifth years rolled by, my college career was coming to full circle. My plans from the beginning were coming into fruition as I was starting to feel what college success really meant. Being able to explore my options, immersing in them, and walking out with healthy connections. Pursuing education didn’t seem important to me at first, but then I realized I was wanting more and more as I went further into my college career. Even today, I’m still considering going back to grad school to continue where I left off at DXARTS and Music.
After graduation, I started working as an audio engineer and sound designer for live-theatre, which was cool because I got to work with some wonderful artists in Seattle! Looking back, if it weren’t for the plans I made with CAN years ago, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. Because of how much the program did for me, I was always entertaining the thought of coming back to CAN. I also used to mentor several students on musical performance at the Filipino Community Center, and so I wanted to provide for other students interested in the arts with CAN. After several work contracts as an audio engineer, a friend recommended me to an open position in CAN and I immediately took that chance! With such a supportive team, I’m happy that I took on the opportunity!
Working as a CAN coach, so far, definitely challenged me professionally. It’s my first time having to mentor a large cohort of students compared to meeting one-on-one like I’m used to, but it’s wonderful seeing how hungry students are when they come in for application and scholarship support. Building relationships with CAN students is such a great experience. There’s been many memorable moments, but one that really sticks out to me was when a student was crying tears of joy since they were able to complete the FAFSA after struggling a lot with inputting parent information. Another moment that stood out to me was being able to help students who were at risk of dropping out and enrolling them into taking the ACT to replace Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) scores. Knowing that these students have a better chance of graduating high school, it brings joy knowing I was able to help!
Many times, I find myself remembering what it was like to be in our students’ shoes. Senioritis, college letters, applications, etc. If there is one piece of advice I’d give to CAN students, it is to understand that college success can take on several forms. For some, it might be the traditional high school to 4-year university route. For others, it could be the transfer route or even taking a gap year. No matter where you are in your college/career life, success can be achieved regardless of how “risky” it seems on the outside. Time and exploration is key! Don’t ever go into a pathway just because other people are also joining it, but find a pathway that genuinely speaks out to you. Always take your time to explore them too! You never know where it could lead you!