College students that volunteer or intern for Let’s Get Ready often report that they end up learning just as much as the peers they are serving. That was the case for Renee Robichaud, who worked as a Site Director for the program in Worcester, Massachusetts. For three years, she led a team of volunteers who mentored high school students from low-income backgrounds, most of them in the first generation of their family to attend college. Hundreds of students with college aspirations have benefitted from her leadership.
Renee grew up in Worcester and speaks glowingly of the small, private Catholic school that she attended where, as she puts it, “the staff and students are like family.” Her teachers and classmates prepared her for college, and in particular, she remembers her especially dedicated guidance counselor, Kelli Reyngoudt. “She made me feel much more confident every step of the way—from picking schools to apply to, to reading multiple drafts of my college essay, to helping me deal with my procrastination issues, and understanding the financial aid process,” recalls Renee. “This individualized attention was immensely helpful to me, and I would argue that it is a necessity for each student to have through the college application process.”
Renee saw Let’s Get Ready as a way to pay forward the energy that her community put into preparing her for college. During the summer between her freshman and sophomore year at Clark University, she served as an Access Coach, a volunteer instructing her near-peers on the writing section of the SAT. After a rewarding experience, she applied for the Site Director position in which she would lead other mentors providing free SAT prep and guidance on college decision-making. “It’s a great way to make an impact on some amazing high school students who will challenge you, surprise you, teach you so much, and appreciate your hard work.”
After completing her first semester as a Site Director, Renee re-applied and held onto the position for each semester and summer until she graduated.
“I was constantly inspired by my coaches, students, and management team,” says Renee. “I worked with such incredible and empowering people. I was pushed to be my absolute best and I loved the experience.”
Renee stresses that Coaches become more than simply “SAT tutors.” She remembers one student whose Coach attended Holy Cross, where she was considering a dual enrollment class. The Coach gave the student a tour of the campus and some encouraging advice that led her to sign up. “[The student] reached out to me, excited about how much more comfortable and confident she felt stepping onto campus because she knew her former coach was there to answer any questions”, she says. “She was able to take this opportunity feeling empowered and capable because of all her Coach had done for her.”
Sometimes, even the mentors needed mentoring. Leading the Worcester site required that Renee made sure Coaches could overcome their own nervousness and self-doubt. “One of the most effective coaches I worked with was at first so nervous to be in front of high school students,” she says. “She has now served as Site Director at the Worcester program for multiple semesters. She is super-dedicated to Let’s Get Ready’s mission, and her compassion for her students inspires me and makes me so proud.”
Renee’s decision to become an English teacher after graduating from Clark in 2016 was heavily influenced by her time spent with Let’s Get Ready. “I learned a lot from working with the organization and it helped me realize my passion for teaching and education,” she says. And the vocation suits her well: “I come to work every day loving what I do, learning from my students, and hoping I can make a positive difference in their lives.”
Socially aware and motivated college students like Renee are extraordinarily empowered by Let’s Get Ready to help their peers overcome the socioeconomic barriers to getting into and graduating from a well-matched college. Let’s Get Ready hires passionate Coaches and Site Directors every winter, spring, and fall. To apply for one of these positions, please follow this link: http://www.letsgetready.org/coach.