A Next Gen Student Heads to College

August 20, 2015

As some of you might remember, Sofia Canela from Summit Public Schools joined Stacey Childress on stage at our closing plenary session at this year’s NewSchools Summit.  She shared her experience attending Summit Tahoma, a next generation school that promotes student agency and believes in an expanded definition of student success. 

Sofia starts college this week. I was able to catch up with her to hear more about graduation, her summer, and her plans for freshman year.  Below are highlights from our conversation.

Sofia still

Tell me about graduation.

Graduation felt like one of the biggest accomplishments of my life because it was one of my biggest goals. I was so excited for myself and my family.  It was also sad. It took me time to realize that all of the seniors in my class were going our own ways and were going to create our own lives. We are leaving our Summit family. I don’t think I fully understood that until it happened.

What did you do this summer after graduation?

After graduation, I traveled to Mexico to spend three weeks taking care of my aunt.  I have a lot of little cousins that live in my aunt’s neighborhood.  My cousins and their friends all wanted to learn English.  So every afternoon, I would create a mini-lesson and teach them English words and grammar.  That experience proved to me again that I love working with kids, and I am so excited to pursue my major in Biopsychology so that I can help young people.

You were involved in a Mills college prep program this summer. Can you tell me about it?

It was definitely the MOST challenging program I have been in.  It’s called the Hellman Science and Math program. We basically got to be college students for two weeks.  We lived in the dorms, attended math and science classes, and had to complete labs.  For the first time, I took block scheduled classes so I only had class three days a week, but for three and a half hours at a time!  I had study sessions with TA’s.  It was really tough because we had to learn how to use our independent time to complete homework and labs.  The experience taught me how to schedule my time and use it wisely.  The hardest part was studying and cramming for the end of course test.  I got to live independently in a dorm for the first time.  Being a first generation student, the whole experience helped me know what college would feel like.

What are you the most excited about? 

Because I already declared my major of biopsychology, the school gave me a list of all of the classes I need to take over the next four years. I already know what is expected of me. This fall I have to take chemistry, English and calculus.  I am also excited about all the resources and support I have at Mills.  The professors are so friendly, and the college has so many resources I can use.

What are you most nervous about?

I am most nervous that I am on my own now.  I am nervous about getting myself through all four years.

When you think about your experience at Summit Tahoma, what will you take with you?

It is going to be really helpful to know how to manage my time for projects and labs. In college they have homework and projects, but deadlines are far into the future. Summit helped prepare me to manage my time effectively. Also at Summit, most of our learning was project based.  Most of my learning in college will be project based, so that will be helpful. I will also take my connections to my Summit family.  I know that I can always ask for support from my teachers and mentors. If I am every struggling with something, I can call my mentor and he will answer the phone any time day or night. 

When you think about your experience at Summit Tahoma, what will be different?

I won’t have any of my friends. No one from Summit is going to attend Mills. Academically, the pace and content will be different.  At Summit, I was able to work at my own pace. On a playlist, I could skip a section and come back to it. I could take an assessment when I was ready.  At college, you have to learn the content when they want you to because you have to take the test when they tell you to.  You have to be ready for midterms and finals on the college’s timeline. At Summit you take many small tests along the way, but at college they test you once or twice a semester and the test covers all the content. The student body will also be different. Mills College is a women’s college. I am so excited to be around such a diverse and confident group of women.


All of us at NewSchools wish Sofia the best as she starts college this month!  

View the videos of all 3 students who joined us at Summit 2015 here.