November 26, 2018
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Paola Liendo ’20 was one of the 18 students who began her college career with the Kenyon Educational Enrichment Program (KEEP) in 2016. “I took it on within the capacity of a student, and then, during my first year, I decided I wanted to apply [to be a TA],” she says. “It helped me a lot, and I wanted to help other people that way.”
The KEEP program, which began in 2007 and has already served more than 150 students, offers an opportunity for incoming first-years from underrepresented backgrounds to participate in a summer intensive academic introduction to Kenyon. KEEP scholars can take courses in writing and STEM or writing and data analysis, all with the help of student Teaching Assistants (TAs).
“It’s this really intensive academic program that takes place over six weeks… you basically go to five to eight hours of class every day,” says Paola, who worked as a writing and data analysis TA last summer. “When you’re teaching in the program, though, your time is a lot less regimented [than scholars’ time],” Paola comments. “You have the morning class session, the faculty meeting, and then you get to enjoy your day until the TA session at night.”
During the day, TAs sit in on intensive courses taught by Kenyon faculty specifically for the KEEP program. “To be able to learn with [scholars] and share ideas together, that whole process is so cool,” says Paola. “Our goal is that they learn the skills that they need to be on the Hill.”
Because KEEP is a challenging academic experience, TAs support students during evening supplemental sessions. “We’ll go over concepts that seemed confusing during class, or let [scholars] do their homework, and they can come to us if they have any questions,” says Paola. Additionally, by meeting with KEEP faculty to discuss progress, TAs stay involved in each scholar’s individual experience.
TAs don’t just offer academic support. “We try to gauge social interaction,” Paola adds. “Oftentimes, our job is encouraging students to leave academic buildings when we do and spend time with other students.” This kind of support is an added bonus for first-years, who begin their fall semester with a group of friendly faces. “It is so nice to step onto this campus and already have people you can recognize and can turn to,” says Paola.
Paola describes a KEEP TA as “confident, calm in wild situations, empathetic, and dedicated to diversity and equity on this campus.” The application process requires a strong resume and cover letter, followed by an interview for select applicants. “It’s important to prepare for potential scenarios. How would you solve these problems? Is a student going about these problems in the right way?” Paola says.
Her summer as a KEEP TA also helped Paola come to a choice about her career path. “I had always considered being an educator, but I was unsure about it until I became a TA,” she says. With the help of KEEP faculty, Paola’s experience was educational for her as well as for the students: “the faculty who worked for KEEP solidified that desire within me because they led both by example and by explicitly mapping out their pedagogical strategies.”
For those seeking more information about the program, inquiries can be addressed to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. KEEP TA applications can be found on Symplicity. The deadline to apply is March 12th.
By Amelia Yeager ’20