Lauren Gaylord is a seasoned CAN volunteer! She has been supporting CAN students for 7 years after seeing her own son's difficulties in navigating the college process.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am was born in Berkeley, CA and have lived in Seattle 30+ years. I have two kids (22 and 25 who live in Denver and LA respectively). I am married to an airline pilot. I am currently an independent Educational Consultant.
2. Did you attend college? If so, where? What motivated you to pursue a college degree?
I went to UC Berkeley for my undergraduate degree and to UCLA for graduate school. I always loved school and it was expected that I would attend college. Living in CA, these colleges were extremely affordable (at the time).
3. When did you get involved in CAN? What attracted you to our cause?
I started volunteering at CAN in spring on 2011 at Garfield HS and have continued ever since (I was also at Roosevelt for a year and have been at Nathan Hale HS since 2012-13). I learned about CAN from a friend who was on the board and I wanted to get involved because at that time my son was applying to college and I realized how complicated the process can be and how little support there is for the population of students served by CAN.
4. What motivates you to stay involved?
Obviously, as someone who believes strongly in the transformative benefit that education can provide, helping a student achieve their educational goals is satisfying. However, what truly motivates me is the opportunity to make even a small difference in the deeply entrenched inequality and unfairness of access to higher education.
5. What inspires you?
The students and seeing their commitment to education and the support they give to each other in the process. It can be stressful for them, but there is also a lot of excitement and joy in the process. Also, knowing that while there are significant challenges in higher education that need to be addressed, making a difference with one student has an impact.
I am also inspired by the AmeriCorps members and their commitment to the students, their energy, their incredible leadership, and their willingness to try new things and take on this challenge.
6. Can you tell us about a memorable moment you’ve had with a CAN student?
I've had quite a few!
Getting an email or a text from a student when they find out they are accepted to college (usually followed by many exclamation points) and then seeing them in person to share that excitement, is a wonderful thing to experience.
Learning about some of the deeply challenging things students have had to face (e.g., deported parents, family illness, being homeless, living across the world from their parents), and then watching them work so hard on this college process in the face of those challenges…it’s humbling.
Once when I was working on an essay with a student early on in my volunteering with CAN, a student told me her mother had died a few years prior. I shared that I had also lost my mother during high school. In virtually every way our backgrounds were completely different, but that shared experience generated trust and a connection between us. It made me realize how important it is to be willing to share personal information about myself so the students feel comfortable doing the same.
One student, a recent immigrant, explained how she had to take swimming for PE not long after starting HS in Seattle. She had never been swimming and was terrified. Another classmate was helpful and supportive that first day in the pool and by the end of the year she loved to swim. The expression of pride and happiness on her face and in her voice was amazing!
7. Why do you think college access and success important for students and your community?
Attending college provides students with endless opportunities to grow and learn and be challenged. It is a place to build skills and expand perspectives and find out how to contribute to the community. Education lifts up all communities and can help reduce inequalities and bias.
8. What has been most surprising to you while working with students?
I don’t know if I’m surprised, but I’m impressed by how many things they manage to have on their plates (in and out of school) and how appreciative they are of the help provided by CAN.
9. What do you think others should know about CAN’s work in serving students?
They are making a difference, one student at a time.
10. What advice would you give students pursuing their college degrees?
Be open-minded – there is so much to learn! Take chances and be willing to fail – it’s the only way you really learn. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – everyone needs help at some point. Be sure your voice is heard – it matters, and support others to make sure their voice is also heard. Sit in the front of the class and go to office hours.