An insatiable sense of curiosity has been part of Oakland native Peony Yu’s makeup since she was a very young girl.
Fast forward to Peony’s junior year of high school, that interest in trying and learning new things drove her to become one of the very first young professionals to complete Genesys Works Bay Area’s eight-week summer training intensive and year-long internship at Gensler during her senior year. Last August, Peony spoke with GreenLight about her experience as a Genesys Works intern. We recently checked in with Peony to see how her first year of college at UC-Irvine went and how she’s used Genesys Works new alumni tools to succeed through a rigorous academic year.
Getting into college is often cited as one of the biggest challenges a young adult will have to face. However, for many students, persisting through their first year can be just as monumental – only 66% of first year college students re-enroll for their second year, regardless of income . Simply put, the transition from high school to college is daunting, both academically and socially. Peony admits that one of the hardest things about transitioning was moving to Southern California, away from all she’s known, and living in a dorm room by herself. She dealt with loneliness and homesickness, but explained that focusing on her academics and joining extracurricular activities, such as lacrosse club, helped her overcome this.
Peony also credits Genesys Works for its help in this transition. The organization’s alumni program is designed to empower its graduates to thrive in college and beyond and to give back to the Genesys Works community. Genesys Works keeps alumni connected to one another through events and online platforms, sharing information about college readiness and opportunities for them to succeed, and providing ways for them to participate in Genesys Works’ ongoing mission in their communities. This past year, Genesys Works Bay Area had 100% participation in their alumni programming. Peony chats with Landen Zernickow, the Bay Area Alumni Success Manager, on a regular basis to connect on how college is going and her plans for the future. This summer, she also joined the first ever Alumni Advisory Board and has been accepted to be a part of the speakers bureau, a group of students that serve as representatives for Genesys Works in media and public relations. Additionally, Peony has kept in touch with her cohort and made new connections with the second and third cohorts while helping them with mock interviews, among other Genesys Works activities.
Peony recognizes Genesys Works for giving her valuable support and perspective. “I want to shape myself to be a leader rather than a follower,” Peony commented. “In high school I followed what my friends wanted to do, not what I wanted to do. Now, I am joining clubs and looking for internships because it’s what I want to do for myself.” In addition to taking a chemistry class this summer, Peony had an internship through the Genesys Works Alumni Worker Program with WestEd, an education-focused nonprofit, where she worked as a remote helpdesk technician assisting teachers around the country. She plans on majoring in Biology, but is also interested in Computer Science and Environmental Studies, both areas she intends to explore this fall as a sophomore at UC-Irvine. All 18 young professionals from cohort one that enrolled in post-secondary education will be entering their sophomore years this fall.
Peony eventually hopes to work with impoverished communities around the globe through programs like Doctors Without Borders. “I changed as a person. I want to be a leader now and give back to Genesys Works and volunteer as much as I can,” Peony said. “I learned from my mistakes and I want to help other people avoid making those same mistakes. I want others in the program to be even more successful than me.”