Today’s post is based on an interview with Brooke Adams, Director of Organizational Change at Marathon Scholars. Brooke Adams is a first-generation college graduate with a master’s degree in social work and a passion for working with students from under-resourced communities.
Please introduce yourself and your work for our blog readers.
I’m Brooke Adams. I am 33 years old, I live in Portland, Oregon, and I have an ACE score of 8. I work with underserved populations getting to and through college. Historically, I have worked with first-generation college students, students who come from low-income backgrounds, or students whose parents came from low-income backgrounds. Sometimes we get students whose parents have worked their way up but never went to college. What we’ve noticed in this work is that no one gives these students a guide, so if their parents come from low-income families, even if the students are being raised in a higher socioeconomic class, they often still face the same struggles that other low-income, first-generation students face.
How does your personal childhood experiences impact your work as a college program director and mentor?
A supervisor once told me, “You can smell trauma in your students. You know when something’s going on when other people don’t.” This is one of the biggest things that has benefited my work: having come from similar backgrounds that my students are coming from. Being extremely low-income, and the first in my family to go to college, I understand what my students might be facing. My childhood experiences, having been in their place before, trying to navigate a college environment, allows me to make sense of what might be going on in their lives and dig deeper. We, as mentoring organizations, have to do a better job of having our employees reflect the student population. For example, there’s not enough support for students of color at the universities I’ve worked with, and making sure our students feel represented and heard is really important in helping them be resilient.