I’m a Small Town Girl with Big City Dreams to Change the World

Dec 19, 2012
rachele americorps vista

Today’s post is written by Rachele Tanner. Rachele is the Program Coordinator for Year Up, Bay Area. Rachele’s passion for working with young adults stems from her experience in Tanzania, Africa and her local community work in San Francisco. She plans on working for Year Up fulltime next year in their new Silicon Valley expansion that will open its doors in March, 2013.

I grew up in the rural valley of California. People think surf and Hollywood when they think California, but they forget about the huge middle of it filled with agriculture, farms and heat. My town, Clovis, is where people grow up and become firefighters, teachers, farmers, bank tellers and full-time mothers. I knew this type of life was not for me. As much as I love my hometown, I knew that I was supposed to be doing something much bigger with my life. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew I had to start early.

It was no surprise that at 18, I wanted to move to Africa and teach English. I remember my dad looking at me asking, why Africa? Well, when you’re 18 you make radical choices, and frankly, Big Brothers Big Sisters was just too small for this dreamer. After spending a summer in Tanzania, I knew at 19 years old that I wanted to make big things happen. I wanted to help people for the rest of my life. Eight years, two corporate jobs and a college degreelater, I find myself in nonprofit.

 Never did I see myself as an AmeriCorps VISTA, but it’s given me the opportunity to work with a company that I absolutely love.  How many people can say that they wake up every morning excited to get to work? Year Up has given me the opportunity as a program coordinator to love what I do. I am so blessed to say so. I work closely with students to ensure student success. That can mean quite a few different tasks: managing the tutoring program, assisting college registration, financial aid, matching students with mentors and any other college advising students may need. Most of my students have never had anyone help them with these resources; some have never been given the chance.  There are more than 6.5 million young people in the U.S. looking for opportunities to succeed in professional careers and higher education, Year Up caters to 1,500 of those students a year nationwide. That’s barely a sliver.

Rachele and a student

I’m constantly reminding myself that every student is one student less falling in that huge opportunity gap. I get to know the students on a level that is extraordinary and am able to better build opportunities and provide the support they need in the classroom and beyond.  I recruit volunteers to come and meet with them weekly and assist with homework and other areas of support vital to a successful outcome. Our volunteers come from businesses in the area – some of which have become our corporate sponsors. The interactions between business professionals and the talented young adults we have here at Year Up are essential.  I also am the liaison between Year Up and our city college affiliate, City College of San Francisco. Our students earn a total of 13 credits once they have completed our program, as well as a certificate in computer networking and information technology. These opportunities are rare and few for young adults between the ages of 18-24, but at Year Up these rare opportunities become achievable.  

Above all, my job is more than just tutoring and college assistance. It’s really about a movement: a space where students feel like they are a part of something more, a place where staff treat students as professionals, and a place where everyone feels supported and applauded. Year Up is a place where a small town girl like me can be a part of something much bigger than she ever imagined.