From Scholar to Scholar Coach: What It’s Like on the Other Side

by Cynthia Perez, Waukegan High School ’09, Stanford University ‘13
AmeriCorps Scholar Coach at Maine East High School, 2013-2014

Cynthia tutors a Schuler Scholar at Maine East High School.
As a Latina from a low-income, single-parent, immigrant household, the odds of attending a private four-year university were not in my favor. However, my mother, who was not given the opportunity to graduate high school, instilled in me the motivation and the need to focus on my education as it was my one ticket to success in this country. “I don’t care what career you go into,” she would say, “as long as you go into one.”

From the age of ten, my dream was to become a pediatrician, but I wasn’t sure how I would get there. Prior to high school, I knew I was going to college; however, there was always this silent acknowledgement between my mother and I that I would attend the community college near our home, as it was all we could afford. My entire perspective on higher education changed the moment I was accepted into the Schuler Scholar Program my sophomore year of high school. Their promise to us was that with our hard work and their guidance, we would have the opportunity to attend a private four-year university with a minimal financial burden on our families.

Throughout high school, Schuler supported me intellectually, emotionally, and financially to ensure that I had the most enriching experience at Waukegan to best prepare me for college. The various college visits across the country, taking a college-level psychology course at Colorado College, my international experience in Ghana—these opportunities would have never occurred had it not been for this organization. Most importantly, Schuler pushed me to take steps into the unknown, to take risks, to put myself out there. I distinctly remember sitting in my college counselor’s office, reviewing the first draft of the college list I had prepared. Rob, my Schuler College Counselor at the time, shook his head and asked, “These are all good choices, but why not Stanford?” Shocked, I told him that I did not think would get into a school as selective as Stanford, to which he replied, “Cynthia. Look at me. You can get in. Put it at the top of your list, right now.” And on the evening of December 12, 2008 my dream of being accepted to Stanford University came true, thanks to the continual support of Schuler and my mother.

The beauty of this program is that it recognizes that support solely during high school is insufficient. The phone calls to simply check in on me, the alumni events during breaks, and the comfort of knowing I had a team back home rooting for my success was definitely a contributing factor to my smooth transition into college and success throughout. My goal of pursuing a medical career was well-known with Schuler, and thanks to their guidance, I had the opportunity to tour and speak with the admissions director of one of my top medical school choices the summer prior to my application cycle. Today, I can proudly state that I have been accepted to seven medical schools throughout the country and am still waiting to hear back from more.

During my gap year prior to medical school, I wanted to dedicate my time to something meaningful and close to my heart. Thus, after conversing with numerous senior staff members in Schuler, I decided to apply to be a Schuler Scholar Coach through AmeriCorps. As a Coach, I have the opportunity to give back to the program that invested so much time and energy solely for my success.

This year, I am working at Maine East High School as a Math and Reading Coach, and because of my pre-medical experiences in college, I also tutor Scholars in Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. Being a staff member has given me strong insight on all of the behind-the-scenes work that would otherwise be unknown to me as a Scholar. Running around school to catch a Scholar in between periods, constant lesson planning, and what seems like hundreds of meetings per week—I can honestly say that Scholar Coaches do not have it easy. This position entails long hours, great flexibility, and an immense amount of patience. After reading these descriptions, one would be inclined to picture a rather burned-out and grumpy individual; however, Schuler has done an amazing job at selecting the friendliest people who are fully dedicated to their year of service. I am incredibly grateful to be working with a staff that puts forth 110% each day with a smile on their faces—people who I can call my friends.

Although the Schuler Scholar Program has changed immensely since my high school days, the program’s mission, dedication, and success still remains as strong as ever. I am halfway through the school year, and can already predict that my departure from Maine East in July will be one of the most difficult goodbyes I will have to make.

To learn more about the AmeriCorps Scholar Coach and AmeriCorps Math Scholar Coach positions, visit the Service Opportunities page on our website.


  1. I am honored to know you Cynthia and even more honored to have been able to work for the Schuler Scholar Program. As much as many scholars have thanked me for helping them find the right college, I thank you all for changing me for the better as a human being. Working for SSP made me a better member of society and allowed me a glimpse into the lives of such a rich, diverse and beautiful community of students and their families. You all inspire!

    1. Rob, we are honored to know you too! Thank you for your continued support of our Scholars--they love seeing you in Boston and hearing from you any time. (AJ)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts