Volunteer, Sonja, Urges Students to Take Pride in What They Are Doing!

Updated: Dec 3, 2018

Sonja has been volunteering with CAN since 2013 and has played a pivotal role in the lives of many students! Keep reading to learn what motivates her to volunteer with our students.

Sonja volunteering with current CAN students at Nathan Hale High School

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Born and raised all over the Seattle area, I settled in Northeast Seattle with my (now grown) four children and husband. Supporting my own and my extended family through the complicated college application process inspired me to offer my experience to others working through this important time. Through a private practice and volunteering for CAN, I have had the good fortune of working with scores of students.

I count beekeeping, extreme gardening and hot yoga among my many hobbies. Fun Fact: I am a Master Food Preserver. Meaning, no produce is safe around me. I will can, ferment, dry, freeze, press, or “put-up” anything in season.

2. Did you go to college? If so, where and what motivated you to pursue a college degree?

I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Political Science in 1987. My family seared the notion that education was the only sure way to financial security and independence into my psyche. I also simply delighted in learning. Reading and schoolwork always gave me a passport to a marvelous world.

3. When did you get involved in CAN? What attracted you to our cause?

Fall 2013 marked my first college application season as a CAN volunteer. I started at Roosevelt High School and now serve students at Nathan Hale High School. Having grown up in a low-income household and as the first college graduate in my family, I understand some of the challenges CAN students face.

4. What motivates you to stay involved?

The memory of a handful of caring, observant mentors that made every difference in my life. I strive to help where I can.

5. What inspires you?

In short, the students. Each student brings their own mighty variables to session; struggles, joy, complications, hope, doubt, fear, confidence – any or all of them. Despite whatever each student is grappling with, they remain steadfast on their journey.

6. Can you tell us about a memorable moment you’ve had with a CAN student?

Two Eritrean students graciously treated us to a traditional coffee ceremony. I had learned a great deal about this ritual through application questions regarding students’ cultures. To observe the time honored preparation and presentation, inhale the fragrance of toasting coffee beans, and simply pause for conversation was unforgettable.

7. Why do you think college access and success important for students and your community?

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” -Kofi Annan

8. What do you think other people should know about CAN?

Think creatively when considering ways to contribute to CAN. Financial support certainly helps. Other efforts provide important context and skills to students. Providing job shadow and internship opportunities, for example, offers students exposure to a range of career choices, references and networking experience.

9. What advice would you give students pursuing their college degrees?

Access all available support on and off campus. Establish this support right away. Do not wait until you are in crisis.

Take pride in what you are doing, you truly deserve it. Give yourself credit at every turn. Guard yourself from the feeling you don’t belong at college.

10. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your time volunteering with CAN?

The regular staff constantly impresses me with their insight, compassion and ability to keep students motivated.



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