Every Thursday at ASF there is a familiar sight: a cluster of parents, children and teenagers being led around campus by a guide, an ASF expert. Participants listen, ask questions and ultimately decide if ASF is the right choice for their family. How does one make such a big decision? A group of experts may be of help. They are known as Student Ambassadors, and all of them are Upper School students at ASF -tour guides for future ASF generations.
Unlike guides at a museum, the Student Ambassadors -in their identifiable vests- can speak from their own experiences within the school. What's more, these experiences are all in the present-tense, giving families a clear view as to what it is truly like to be a student at ASF. The Student Ambassadors program is a large, vital program at ASF. It involves hours of behind-the-scenes work and builds leadership among our student population.
Student Ambassadors have "become a very important part of our admission process," said Patsy Martin de Hubp, ASF's Director of Admission and Financial Aid and the coordinator of the Student Ambassadors program. "I think the parents prefer to hear from the students themselves. They are the school, they are what they hope their child will be eventually if they come here." With over 40 Student Ambassadors, the program has many eager representatives to choose from.
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What does a typical Student Ambassador-led tour look like?
Every Thursday at 9:30 a.m., prospective students and families arrive (having called ahead of time to reserve a spot). "We try and limit it to 25-30" people, said Ms. Martin de Hubp, "We're at 50 for Thursday because we have families coming from abroad." The tours are then broken up into small groups, depending on their child's age and grade level. Each group is assigned two Student Ambassadors.
Before the Student Ambassadors program began, Ms. Martin de Hubp used to give the tours herself. This was a large time commitment. But more importantly, she felt it did not have the same impact for families. "I think it's important to see the student, to meet the student, to hear from the student," she said. "What are they involved in? What clubs? And if they transitioned to ASF in grade 7, how did that go? They're the ones taking the classes, they know what the classes are like. If something different is being done in Middle School, they know about it."
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School tours last around an hour. Throughout the tour, families are encouraged to ask questions. Student Ambassadors are trained to be very honest in their answers. If they do not know an answer, they are trained to say so. Ms. Martin de Hubp meets with all groups after their tour, and she answers any lingering questions.
These tours, Ms. Martin de Hubp said, are similar to a college visit. "The Student Ambassadors are the face of the school," she said. "It is the first impression [families] have of ASF. And it's something that sits when them. I had a family come on a tour and they came back and wanted to know whether [their Student Ambassador] José Luis had gotten into BU [Boston University]. The seniors love talking to parents about that and parents love talking to them. There's a real connection."
Ms. Martin de Hubp and her fellow coordinators work to make the tours as inclusive as possible. This is made possible by ASF's diverse and talented student body. "We'll do tours in different languages," she said. "They'll do them in Korean...in French. We'll do them in English, in Spanish. So, we're accommodating in that sense."
Not only do the Upper School Student Ambassadors give tours to prospective families, but also to entire grades levels of other schools. Every November, grade 6 students from Colegio Junípero and Escuela Lomas Altas are invited to visit ASF. Student Ambassadors give prospective students a tour of the Middle School and Upper School campus, with the hope that they may one day attend ASF.
How does an ASF student become a Student Ambassador?
"At the beginning of the year," said Ms. Martin de Hubp, "we post applications in the Upper School for all grade 10, 11 and 12 students." Applicants must answer short essay questions. For example: What does it mean to be at ASF? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Why do you wish to become a Student Ambassador?
The program coordinators interview each candidate. Students must be in good academic standing. This is not simply to ensure they are a model student, but also because Student Ambassadors, on days they give a tour, miss their second period class.
Once student candidates are selected, they are sent an acceptance letter. Program coordinators then begin the training process. First, they read and review expectations with the new Student Ambassador, using the Student Ambassador Handbook. They discuss common questions they may be asked and how to appropriately respond. Depending on the student, varying levels of training are necessary.
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"Some have been here since kinder," said Ms. Martin de Hubp. These students are quite familiar with the layout and organization of ASF. "There's those that have come in recently," she continued, "so that's good for those Middle School, Upper School kids that are coming in. They can talk about the transition into ASF."
Next, the trainees do a walkthrough of the school. They shadow two tour groups with current Student Ambassadors. After that, they begin their own tours—though each tour has two Student Ambassadors, so they are never without support. Student Ambassadors are required to do a tour once a month. But, said Ms. Martin de Hubp, "A lot of them love it and sign up for more than one."
What makes a student at ASF—juggling many other responsibilities—want to become a Student Ambassador?
"I decided to apply to this program," said Natalie Velarde, grade 12 student, "because they offered the opportunity to meet possible incoming students, alumni, parents, and other visitors, while introducing them to our community... I also wanted to give people a feeling of comfort, confidence, and openness into ASF. I cannot think of a better thing," she continued, "than knowing that I am able to represent my school, my home, and share what I value from it with others in hope that they experience this as well."
Daniel Grossman, grade 11 student, reflected on his experience as a Student Ambassador. "My favorite part," he said, "is meeting the curious newcomers to the ASF family. Not only do I get to verbalize my experience at ASF over the past 13 years, but I get to see the school through the eyes of someone who has never seen it before. Seeing the school through a newcomers' perspective truly enables me to appreciate the benefits that ASF offers."
Natalie noted that the program has provided her many benefits. "I have had the privilege of meeting people such as a Turkish Ambassador, NBA Players, CEOs of large companies, and even my mom's graduation class."
"Aside from the ability to meet amazing people of such different backgrounds," she said, [my] "favorite part of this activity is being able to share my experiences with them, in hopes that people wanting to become part of our community will be able to love this institution as much as I do, appreciating every aspect of it."
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Natalie added to Ms. Martin de Hubp's belief that student-led tours make more of an impression than one led by adults. "People often ask us personal questions," she said. "Things they feel uncomfortable asking an admissions officer, or ask about things they are concerned about in Mexico City itself. In this position, we are able to not only share the most amazing aspects of ASF with them, but also the true value of being part of this community.
"I consider the program as being a cornerstone in ASF admissions and for the school's image in general," Daniel said. "From a student's perspective, having the opportunity to practice speaking abilities and verbal fluidity is genuinely beneficial for the entirety of the students' life."
Daniel hopes that future generations will see the value in the Student Ambassadors program, and that they will and also apply. "I really encourage students to look into the program so they are able to increase its presence as a school program and so hopefully they can become a significant representative and demonstrate the character of ASF."
"I would love to encourage passionate ASF students who enjoy presenting and public speaking to join," said Natalie. "From a learner's perspective, the program helps develop a new skill which I believe is quintessential for the future as far academics go."