Dolly England, Clark’s diversity outreach program manager, hosts a quarterly workshop titled “Young, Brown, and Talented: How to Get a Job.” England is a first-generation college graduate and created the event to provide the help and resources she wishes she had in college.
This spring’s event will be held in the T Building on May 24 at 11 a.m. in the Pathways Center.
England sat down with the Independent’s Managing Editor Sandra Maszak to share her experience and how it allows her to relate to Clark students. After graduating from Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, England attended Evergreen State College in Olympia.
As the first in your family to go to college, what inspired you to take that step?
I feel like I always knew that I wanted to go to college because I knew I would be the first person in my family to go, and that was really important to me. I felt like I had teachers at [Vancouver School of Arts and Academics] who believed in me and my ability to do more in this world. Not only teachers, but also community members. I was involved in Girl Scouts and I played softball. The fact that people believed in me and that I had this potential really helped me move along.
What are some barriers you faced as a first-generation college student?
I’m dyslexic. I have a learning disability that is not something that I really talk about a lot. I was afraid of taking the SATs. I was afraid of filling out all the paperwork and I know that I can’t spell that well. I knew what my weaknesses were, so I had to find people and things to help me in those areas.
What did you do to combat the barriers you faced?
When I got to college I went to the Disability Support Services office and I got all of my books on tape. If I had not gone and accessed the resources through Disability Support Services, I don’t know if I would have been able to maintain academically. I asked for that help and found out I could get more time taking tests; I could get someone to take my notes. So all of these tools were available to me because I asked for it. I think a lot of times people are afraid to ask or they don’t want to put their business out there.
Although you cannot speak for the group as a whole, what misconceptions do you see first-generation college students facing?
I think that probably the biggest misconception is that first-generation students know how to do it. With financial aid for example, I didn’t understand any of it. It took me a long time to figure out the process of higher education. If there is not someone in your life that can explain financial aid and academic advising to you, then you have to make it up on your own or go investigate that on your own.
What other challenges did you face in college?
I was the only person of color in a lot of my classes, one of a handful. Being in a predominantly white institution as a person of color who is the first person in my family to go to college, I had a lot weighing on my shoulders. There were a lot of people expecting me to do well and it was a lot of pressure.
Overall, what is your biggest takeaway from your experience in higher education?
I recognize that because I took that extra four years and went to school, I actually started my career making as much money as my mom made when she retired. It is important. It is an investment. It is a lot of work, but, like I said, it is the best investment I made in myself. If you have the drive and the ambition, you can do anything. If you’re willing to ask for help, someone will help you along the way.
What else can you tell me about the workshop you lead?
So the whole reason why I did “Young, Brown, and Talented” was because I wasn’t prepared to get a job when I graduated college. I wanted to create something that would help give students, especially students of color, tips and tricks for how to stand out in the application process, for your interview, what your resume needs to look like. The biggest thing I tell students, especially when I’m doing Young, Brown, and Talented, is that I started my career making as much money as my mom did when she retired. Think about that. If that doesn’t put an education into perspective, I don’t know what does.”