Giving Back – The Chinquapin Way

Isaac Gonzalez (’20) shows us how Quid Pro Quo is done

Isaac knew about Chinquapin long before he ever applied. His brother, Josue (‘19), his cousin, Kevin Vargas (‘15), and a few other family members were already part of the Chinquapin community. Isaac viewed Chinquapin as his “golden ticket” to college. Even getting a chance at that ticket, though, was tough. He didn’t make it in on his first go-round, but he did everything he could as a ninth-grader (“grinding to get the best grades”) to become a student “Chinquapin couldn’t reject”, seeing it as a mini-college application experience. That drive to prove himself stayed with Isaac throughout his time at Chinquapin.

He was quickly welcomed by his classmates, who had been at Chinquapin since middle school. He said sometimes they’d even tell stories that he figured into before he became a student there. It was as if he’d always been part of the Chinquapin family.

Still, during his first year, he found himself drawn to and constantly comparing himself to one classmate, whom he saw as the “perfect Chinquapin student”: friendly, outgoing, and super smart. Isaac, on the other hand, felt he was ill-prepared for the rigors of Chinquapin. He found the workload and academic expectations to be extremely difficult. He experienced imposter syndrome, and he struggled every day. But he was determined to improve. He began to rely on his peers and he grew from the faculty’s constructive feedback (he has a great appreciation for [former teacher] Cody Sharma and Stephen Perrault who went out of their way to help him). By his junior year, he maintained an A+ average.

Academics were a major part of Isaac’s Chinquapin life, but so were leadership opportunities. As a junior, he stepped up to serve as the JV soccer coach, and he did so again as a senior, not only playing but coaching the Varsity soccer team – that year making all the way to the playoffs! Peer leadership proved an invaluable confidence booster that he carries with him today.

At the beginning of his senior year, Isaac felt pressure to make Posse. You see, his brother, Josue, is a Posse Scholar, and Isaac had followed in his brother’s footsteps to Chinquapin. He was keen to reach for the same “golden ticket” to college. He says The Posse Foundation interviews offered him a chance to tell his story of how he struggled academically, but that his determination combined with Chinquapin’s strong, supportive community meant he could be successful. Posse’s interview process gave Isaac the space to provide a full picture of who he is and what he would bring to a college classroom. Sure enough, his hard work paid off: he was awarded a Posse scholarship (full tuition and board) to attend Colby College, where he is now a sophomore. 

The transition from Chinquapin to Colby felt familiar; in fact, when he first started at the small liberal arts school in Waterville, Maine, he briefly revisited the feeling of being an imposter on campus. Quickly, though, and thanks to his Chinquapin experience (faculty office hours and pushing students to advocate for themselves), he recognized the power of his voice, and he began to speak up in class and seek out help from his professors when he needed it.

For Colby’s Jan Plan (a monthlong term that offers students a chance to focus on a single subject/area) Isaac returned to Chinquapin as a teaching fellow. He shadowed Stephen Perrault who teaches AP Language, US History, and ELA. Stephen guided Isaac through his lesson planning and teaching style, eventually allowing Isaac to create his own lesson plans for these classes. Planning and teaching full classes and keeping students engaged solidified Isaac’s desire to pursue an education degree. The return to Chinquapin also gave him complete closure that the pandemic had taken from him (he completed his senior year remotely). 

He flew to Colby at the end of January with mixed emotions: while he’s happy to be back at college, he was sad to leave the tight-knit Chinquapin community. This experience built up his confidence and underscored the importance of creating spaces for those who feel they don’t belong, to welcome them, like he was welcomed when he first came to Chinquapin.


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