Experiencing DePaul while in high school led Amanda back for college.
"I wasn't academically stable before high school; not to say that I didn't care, but school wasn't always the focus in my household. I wanted to go to a really good high school like Whitney Young or Walter Payton but I did not have exceptional grades in elementary school. Despite my grades, I enrolled in Kenwood Academy — thankfully my mom knew someone who helped me get in to Kenwood and I did not have to go to my neighborhood high school.
"In my junior year at Kenwood, I had a friend who took classes with the CPS College Bridge program (a program that allowed high school students to take courses at selected Chicago colleges and universities). After a few more friends signed up for the program, I did, too, and took classes at DePaul during the fall quarter of my senior year. Unfortunately the program was canceled after that quarter. To compensate for the college classes I wouldn't be able to take since College Bridge was canceled, I signed up for a few AP classes at Kenwood, including AP Environmental Science. I absolutely fell in love with the class. When I started to apply for colleges, DePaul was at the top of my list because of my previous experience with College Bridge. I saw that DePaul had an Environmental program and so I applied."
"TRIO was really the first family I made at DePaul."
"Everyone in TRIO is so supportive and encouraging. In fact, the program was my gateway into feeling comfortable in college and to getting involved in a number of programs at DePaul. The first year in the program, I was just getting to know TRIO and what the program was all about. At the start of my second year I really began taking advantage of the advising sessions because they were so beneficial. Rachel Choto (assistant director for SSS) advised me to get more involved in the Environmental Science department and to talk with the faculty and see what kinds of lab or research opportunities were available.
"TRIO often sent out informational emails about job opportunities which led to my first job in college with a program called Jumpstart. The program works with partner preschools in under-resourced neighborhoods and five to seven college students take over the class two days a week. It's an amazing program that has developed my leadership skills and helped me realize that I love teaching and working closely with the community. I also heard about teaching assistant positions through TRIO. I explored opportunities within the Environmental Science department like Rachel suggested and was able to work as a teaching assistant for four quarters over my junior and senior years. I went from teaching preschoolers to college students!"
"If not for TRIO, I wouldn't have taken advantage of so many opportunities."
"I began exploring research as a career during my second year at DePaul and with Rachel's help, I began applying to research programs. The summer beginning my junior year, I was accepted into the CIRRUS (Chicago Initiative for Research and Recruitment in Undergraduate Science) program which provides academic support and research opportunities for science and math students. I had my first real experience researching that summer — I worked on a project investigating irregular phosphorus concentrations in the soil composition in Prairie Wolf Slough wetland in Lake County. CIRRUS provided an amazing research experience that solidified my research interest in examining soil communities. With the encouragement from both Rhonda Harley at CIRRUS and Rachel, I explored research opportunities abroad.
"I found a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program to conduct research at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. Unlike my research with CIRRUS I wanted to work in an urban environment and get to know the community. I developed an appreciation for urban ecology through the program. I presented my findings at two conferences and won first place in Environmental Science for my research in Puerto Rico and Best Presentation from DePaul. The judges at the conferences were from many different academic fields, not just Environmental Science; to me, getting these awards meant that everyone could relate to my work and it means I'm doing research that matters. I'm extremely proud of how much I've developed as a researcher.
"Overall, I've had three distinct research opportunities while at DePaul and each was extraordinarily unforgettable. Looking back, if I wouldn't have gotten involved with TRIO, I wouldn't have taken advantage of so many opportunities DePaul offered. I wasn't really the go-getter type who sought out academic opportunities in high school or at the start of college. TRIO helped me to stay motivated, get involved and explore different organizations. The program really helped me develop academically, professionally and personally."
Amanda graduated from DePaul in spring 2014 and is attending the University of Illinois at Chicago to pursue a PhD in Ecology.