Here at the To&Through Project, we work to make data accessible with an aim to inspire action. As a result, we’ve often had the honor of being privy to our colleagues’ personal reflections on the data we share, and their varying perspectives shape the way we think about this work.
Below, we share Candace Kyles’ reflections on one of our Data Insights — which summarize years of research from the UChicago Consortium and To&Through Project — and her pushes for thinking about how students’ voices can inform our collective work to improve the system.
First-year college students are navigating finances, academics, a new environment, imposter syndrome, cultural shifts, and for some, emerging mental health issues that weren’t apparent before entering this new stressful environment. I too struggled to stay enrolled my first year: I was far from home at a predominantly white institution where I quickly learned that I was not the smartest or most talented. Coming to terms with that was hard because it had felt like my identity — who was I, if I wasn’t that person?
I would love for our work with young people to include more honest conversations about our experiences and how we managed these new spaces. This transparency and vulnerability will help our students know that they are not alone in these challenges, and that they can have frank conversations with us.
At the same time, I think students need more opportunities to speak with their near peers. Oftentimes we share our experiences as adults, but it does not resonate in the same way that near-peer mentors and college students’ insights and wisdom do. Their experiences might feel more relatable and trustworthy for a young adult.
—Candace Kyles, Senior Director of the College Graduation Office at the UChicago Charter School