Jennie Cha – Portland State Univeristy
Jennie obtained her degree in Social Work and is currently working as a college and career coordinator for a GEAR UP program at Roosevelt HS in Portland. She has a passion for working with youth and children in an educational setting.
Portland Community College & Portland State University, Class of 2016
Degree: Social Work
Why did you pick your area of study?
I was always interested in working with youth and children in the social service field specifically when it came to education. The field of social work allowed me to explore in different areas when it came to working with historically oppressed and disadvantaged populations.
How do you think being a first-generation student affect your college experience?
Being a first-generation student meant my parents could not understand the experiences of what it was like to go and be in college. This was hard because there were times where college was so demanding, and my parents could not understand that. When it came to financial support, this was also a challenge because I knew my parents could not support me with tuition. Despite those odds, I was fortunate enough to have an older sister who taught me many things I needed to know about college as she navigated it for the first time as the eldest in the family. While we are both college graduates, it was not easy. When I could not follow in her footsteps, I felt alone in my new experiences. After learning this, it is so important that I provide this insight back to my younger sister and my community.
What do/did you love about your specific university or college(s)?
PCC – I loved how close-knit everything was, all the class sizes were small and certain resources (i.e. tutoring center) was manageable with the number of students and tutors. It was not overwhelming. I also loved my instructors who made my first three years as a college student enjoyable and an easy transition from high school to college. I was also part of a scholarship program, Future Connect and being a part of that program literally made my journey so much more enriching. I had a wonderful success coach who understood, respected and provided me endless opportunities. I had awesome peers/friends in the program and the connection helped a lot because it helped me form a community at college.
PSU – I adore my BSW cohort and program. I learned so much from my fellow cohort members and professors which really cemented me in knowing what I want to do. The program had many resources and catered to my college student needs (i.e. access to printing, access to a microwave, access to a lounge). I hardly left the 6th floor of the REC building because everything I needed was there. However, when I did have classes outside of the program requirements, I also had great professors and meet new people which was great!
Were there any people along your collegiate journey that made a special impact on you?
Mary Cha – my wonderful older sister, I was fortunate enough to have her during my first year at PCC before she transferred to PSU. She gave me a lot of moral support during my first year and modeled for me what a good student is.
Becca Parker – she was my Future Connect coach. She guided me, supported me and challenged me. I knew for my first three years at PCC, that she always had my back and to have someone who supported you in college was exactly what I needed!
Kelly Geiger – a fellow PCC classmate, we were both enrolled in a chemistry class (this was the first time we took a chemistry class) and he literally saved me in this class. He was a great support person and always gave me positive encouragement, it was such a blessing to have met him, although we don’t talk anymore, he holds a special place in my college journey.
Stephen Moss – a fellow PCC classmate, we took two math classes together (95 and 105) and he was the one who really got me into the learning center at PCC. We both struggled together and learned together and till this day, we still connect, I am so blessed to have him as a part of my college journey.
BSW cohort members – these people really grounded me in the field of social work, I’ve been inspired by so many of them and still connect with them.
What was the most impactful experience during your time in college?
The most impactful experience during my time in college was juggling a part-time job, an unpaid internship and a full school schedule. It was difficult, but I am thankful of the experience, because now I can say that I’ve done it and it didn’t stop me from achieving my goals.
How did you adjust to life post-graduation?
I didn’t really experience life post-graduation because I went straight into a full-time, 40 hours a week job, so I didn’t get the chance to really let it hit me. However, I think when I realized it was when I had mentors who were still in college and they asked me what it’s like being done. I loved sharing my experiences with them because it allows me to recall some of my happiest and challenging days.
What have you been doing since graduation?
I got my first real job as a GEAR UP Coordinator at Roosevelt High School (where I graduated) when I finished my bachelors. I am now coordinating college and career related activities for high school students. I supervise nine college mentors and I get to work alongside amazing teachers who want to transform and enrich their classrooms. I’ve traveled in this job and got to plan and lead a Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) spring break tour in Alabama and Georgia. I also moved out with my sister and is currently renting an apartment in my own neighborhood and I bought my first car this past summer. Life has been great, and I am so fortunate.
If you have ever attended our scholarship brunches, how did those go for you?
I remember attending my very first one at Pho Van where we ate pho and I got to meet my fellow scholars from the Future Connect program. It was great to see who else got the scholarship, but most importantly hear their stories and hear from Irvin and Stephanie.
All the scholarship brunches have been fun and enjoyable. I like to meet recipients of the scholarship and hear from them about their journey, their majors and their passions. I’ve gotten that from all of the brunches that I’ve been to. For the future, I would love to see get to know you activities/icebreakers.
What does it mean to you to have been chosen as a Renaissance Scholar?
It has been an honored and a wonderful experience. I definitely felt the love when I was a student (while in college and out). I’d also like to shout out Diana for being such an amazing person and caring so much about the students. I hope the Renaissance Scholarship Program can continue to support and make dreams come true.
Any advice for students applying for the Renaissance Scholars program?
Be true to yourself. Growing up, I always had a lot of pressure to deliver and make my parents and family proud. When I got the Future Connect scholarship, it was more people that I knew had high expectations for me which gave me more pressure. I felt the same way about getting the Renaissance Scholars program as well, because here are two amazing people who want to financially support me, and I didn’t want to fail them. However, I realized that getting caught up in trying to be the perfect student wasn’t mentally healthy. People want to help you from the goodness of their heart, so be true to yourself, your journey, your experiences and remember to be humble, kind and give back whenever possible.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Everyone’s path and experiences are different, so remember that it’s the journey that you will remember the most and not where you end up.