Name: Katherine (Kat) Siat
Host Site: Sacramento State University Commit to Study
Alma Mater: University of California, Santa Cruz
Major: Sociology and History of Art/Visual Culture
Background: My experience as an undergrad was one of uncertainty, mistakes, and an overwhelming amount of growth. There were moments when I questioned my degree paths. There were times where I failed exams. Yet every time, I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, and finished the work. 584 school days later, I earned a BA in Sociology and History of Art/Visual Culture, but not without help (and lots of coffee).
In college, I did not meet my mentors in the classroom—my closest mentors that I’ve been blessed with were from the various jobs I’ve held. During my college years, I switched between many jobs and internships out of necessity and also curiosity. From being a dining hall dishwasher to a computer lab consultant to a retail associate to doing short term gigs on Craigslist. I interned in non-profits ranging from suicide prevention to nightlife urban planning. For a while, I felt my job-hopping would end up being a disservice, but now more than ever I don’t regret any of the things I took on. I gained so many new perspectives: from the environment I was in, from the people I met, and from the lessons I’ve learned.
My family was supportive in my academics and jobs, but I didn’t expect them to understand where I was coming from. Being a first-generation American, my family’s past experience with college was much different than mine. Luckily, there were other people in my life that were a lot more relatable. My mentors gave me that empathy and guidance that I needed to move forward. And what became the completion of my undergrad journey, also became OUR success; even if it meant I would be moving on and away.
Why you serve: I serve because I believe one-on-one student mentoring is one of the most effective ways to build perseverance in students. Sacramento State is a commuter campus with a 4-year graduation rate of only 9%. Many students have 2 or more jobs on top of going to school full-time. Some students I’ve talked to define a social life as a luxury, and naturally they need someone to talk to and relate to. They want someone to guide them and genuinely care about their academic resilience.
In addition, the students who apply to be mentors have compassion ingrained in them, and to be able to support and work with them is a blessing. To be able to create systems in place for student mentors to thrive in their passion excites me and motivates me to keep improving our program. I hope that Commit to Study can be a well-known and sought-after resource for students for years to come.
Advice: Being in 2 different AmeriCorps programs, I hope these words will be your mantra whenever you feel discouraged about the big picture: Every person you impact matters. If you touch one life, you are still making a difference. And to them, your work is worth it.
A reminder if you feel down and you see little or very slow positive change: Learn from the people you serve. Especially those working in schools and education non-profits—what you learn from the communities you’re serving is equally as important as what you share with them. This reciprocal exchange of experience and knowledge will open doors you never even knew were there.
Last thing: Be transparent with your supervisors about your financial situation. Being in AmeriCorps is straining on your financial stability, and we all understand that is part of the experience. If you can’t ask help from your family or significant others, go to your AmeriCorps supervisor for guidance.
Legacy: Being a program coordinator of a fairly new mentoring program, I want to leave an impression of stability. With the website our program just launched, and the new connections we’re making with other campus resources, I want the next VISTA to feel well-trained and comfortable with these new networks and systems we’ve put in place. I want the next AmeriCorps VISTA to feel like I paved the road for them to continue this work, and ultimately to streamline and grow the program.
If I can, I want to be there when the next AmeriCorps member arrives so I can introduce them to their Sac State support network. Ideally, I want to find an alumni from Sac State to complete the next Commit to Study’s VISTA term, because I believe they would understand and connect with the mission of the program in an intuitive way. I think the person we recruit next (and how supportive I am to that individual) is integral to the sustainability of this program.