Grad's Eye View of YWLP Impact
As Rachel Davies prepared to complete her 2-year term as a college advisor last spring, the transition was eased by learning that Tenisha Alston (CLAS 2021), the new VCAC advisor arriving to work with her Charles City High School students, had served in YWLP as an undergrad at UVA. “I felt so much better leaving my students in her hands knowing that she's coming from this background,” Rachel said.
Rachel is currently a graduate student in the Masters in Higher Education program at UVA’s School of Education and Human Development and one of our graduate fellows in the Women's Center. Rachel also received her BA in Global Development Studies and French from UVA before serving as a college advisor with the Virginia College Advising Corps. Through her experience advising students at Charles City High School and her work with YWLP this year, Rachel has gained an appreciation for how well YWLP prepares Big Sisters to make a difference both during and after their time in the program.
When she returned to UVA and learned that our Casscells Fellowship with YWLP was an option for the internship required of Higher Education masters students, Rachel knew it would be a great fit for her interest in the intersection between education and community.
Throughout this fall, Rachel continued to encounter the extended YWLP family and the long-term commitment it fosters. She is serving as the TA for the Ed School course taken by YWLP Bigs, currently taught by Katherine Sublett, another Double Hoo (MSEd, BSEd, BA) who served as both a Big Sister and a mentoring group facilitator in YWLP as an undergrad. Rachel has loved seeing the ways that Katherine’s experience informs and inspires her work with current Bigs. “She was in their shoes not so long ago. The fact that she came back to lead this class and help shape mentors for the future, and that she and her own Little still love each other and keep in contact, that is so special to me as someone who was an advisor to students,” she said.
Rachel recently shared these insights into the impact YWLP has on everyone involved:
YWLP acts as an intersection between UVA and the community, providing leadership opportunities. It provides opportunities to form really close bonds with people that you otherwise wouldn't. It takes students off of UVA grounds at least once a week, which is something that not every UVA student does. It takes them into schools where they're meeting people who have experiences that are largely different from theirs. I really like this position and this work that we do and YWLP specifically for that reason that we get to be, hopefully, a positive force in the community.
The hope is that the local students receiving mentorship are deriving as much benefit as the UVA students who are mentoring them, especially knowing how much work the Bigs do to learn how to be good mentors. They are constantly reflecting on their practice, reflecting with each other, reflecting internally with themselves, reflecting with the facilitators in the class. They're doing like a kick-ass job - feel free to quote me on that - mentoring these girls and making sure that they're giving them the best experience that they can. Reading all of their reflections and hearing all of their thoughts in class is a really unique experience for me.
Think back to yourself in middle school. I wish I could have had a college student come and listen to my problems and actually care. I would have felt so important and so supported.
As someone going into student affairs, I wanted to get programmatic experience as well as student facing experience, so this role turned out to be the best of both worlds.
The Women's Center is the best place I could possibly have worked. We have the best bosses, the best office, the best work hours, the best office culture. I’ve learned that work can be fun. I'll take the spirit of the Women's Center with me, certainly, helping everyone and just trying to be as inclusive possible, supporting students and other peers and employees in the same way.
Rachel Davies (CLAS 2019)