Name: Jaklen Keshishyan
Host Site: Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering
Alma Mater: CSU Northridge
Major: Child and Adolescent Development
Background: Have you ever looked at a diamond? I mean really look at it? A collection of faces, all unique, all unsure of one another, yet inextricably linked. When viewed from a distance, you no longer see the sharp edges, or the smooth surface of the individual faces, but the diamond as a whole and its beauty. I have come to see myself and those around me as diamonds. We all have facets and self-schemas that are completely unique. There are parts of ourselves and our pasts that we may not be proud of, but despite any regrets, everything in our lives had to occur in exactly the way it did for us to become the diamonds we are today. My undergraduate career was like this: a collection of experiences that gave me the chance to pave my own path, complete with twists and turns and bumps and uphill battles along the way.
Initially, like many college freshman, I was unsure of what major to select or who to be. A diamond in the rough. I stumbled into child and adolescent development courses, and – just like that – I discovered a new facet of the person I want to become. My passion for child and adolescent development ignited my interest in taking an active role and applying my knowledge to practice. I began a long string of internships with The Blues Project – which focused on assisting the community with depression and suicide prevention; Joined Advocates of Discorded Eating – which collaborated with community partners and educated the university on eating disorders and healthy eating habits; Charles Drew University – which worked to provide urban youth the opportunity to thrive in education; The Peer Health Exchange – which partnered with the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley school district and taught ninth grade students health education; and The Child and Family Guidance Center – which educated and provided behavioral therapy assistance to troubled youth with behavioral disorders. Like the cutting and polishing a rough diamond, these experiences molded me into who I am today, and who I aspire to be tomorrow.
Why I serve: I have always wanted to take part in something bigger than myself, something that would assist the community, and alleviate the struggles that life presents to those in lower socio-economic settings. I joined AmeriCorps because I knew I could contribute, and I was drawn to do my part. After one short year of service, AmeriCorps has changed my life and provided me with the professional development that I had been craving from the beginning of my higher education journey. I have gained a great deal of insight, and I would recommend that everyone takes advantages of programs like these.
Ah-ha moment: The best thing about life is the journey. The smiles and tears, the uphill battle and the view from the top. My ah-ha moments during my year of service all came to me in doses, sprinkled in like seasoning to give it some flavor. As the K-12 outreach coordinator at Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering, I had the privilege of seeing the gears in students heads turn as they constructed a rollercoaster out of newspaper. I also had the privilege of sitting in with Dr. Cordelia Ontiveros and reviewing workshops that I had given and get priceless feedback from her on best-practices and methods. These experiences provided consistent motivation and encouraged me to persevere. They guided my path and showed me how much I know, have learned, and still need to learn.
Future Goals/Plans: My future goals? The plan is to take over the world, but for now I will be starting the Master of Public Health Program at California State University Long Beach in fall of 2015. I intend to work as a public health program coordinator after my graduation. I also plan to work closely with the autistic population and focus on their dietary needs that, largely, are not currently being met. At a young age I drew out a picture of the diamond I want to be. It was atypical, some would say – not large or with equal sides. This was always frowned upon. My position as an AmeriCorps*VISTA has empowered me to believe in myself, my dreams, and my oddly-shaped yet gorgeous diamond.