If his potential medical career pans out, Christos Karamitros is going to owe his little sister big time.
He won’t be the only one.
Vivian Karamitros, 16, isn’t just a junior working through would be college fits for herself. The Clover High School student is paving a path for others. It started with her brother, Christos.
“Since my brother had no knowledge of higher education here, I wanted to help him organize that information,” Vivian said.
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Their mom came from Peru, their dad from Greece. The Karamitros family lived in Charlotte for a while, but Lake Wylie the past 10 years. Since mom and dad weren’t familiar with college prep and applications, it was his senior year before Christos started looking. They didn’t know about AP classes and other stops along the usual high school to college track.
There were resources at the library. Most were thick and, Vivian admits, unappealing to students her age so accustomed to on demand information.
“It’s a lot of information that they’re trying to absorb, and they don’t know what to do with it,” said mom Rayda Karamitros.
Luckily for the family, they had Vivian.
“Ever since I was little, I liked to organize,” she said.
She condensed the information to basics of when and where students need to be in preparation for college. “Paving Your Path to College” began at home but now is offered in churches, community centers, libraries and with a Charlotte nonprofit geared toward educating Latina women. Workshops are about 45 minutes.
Since the fall of 2015 Vivian has worked with about 40 people.
“It’s not only for Latino people, but for everyone that’s first generation going to college,” Rayda said. “Or willing to work to go to college.”
Vivian, who loves statistics classes and wants to become an actuary, knows first hand what it means to be a first generation student looking at colleges. But there are others who could benefit from her workshop.
“It can be socioeconomic and for first generation (college students),” Vivian said. “It’s just an overwhelming thing to apply for.”
Elizabeth Hartley probably knows the college application process as well as anyone in Lake Wylie. She runs Scholarship Gold Consulting, where she helps students looking at the wide array of scholarship opportunities. Hartley heard about Vivian’s program and found her to be “a gem of a young lady” with uncommon passion for helping.
“She’s certainly academically gifted but she also has a genuine heart for educating students who don’t know their options for college and how to access them,” Hartley said. “I have great respect for all that Vivian has done to reach out to students whose parents who did not attend college.”
It won’t hurt when Vivian is applying for college herself either, Hartley said.
“Colleges now focus on more than just grades and test scores,” she said. “They place a lot of value on students who demonstrate leadership and initiative, like Vivian.”
In reaching out to others it helps when the family can point to Christos, now 18 and studying biology at UNC Charlotte. He recently went with doctors to Nicaragua for social work as part of his education. Still, Vivian can get some unusual reactions when people find out it’s the high school student offering help on getting to college.
Usually it works the opposite way.
“When you go out in the community and you see,” Vivian said. “At first people are shy to talk about it, but then they see you are trying to help and they start asking questions.”
Rayda tries to put it into words but, as happens sometimes, she relies on her daughter to help find the right ones. It’s part of being a first generation student in a family like theirs.
“They relate to me, is what she’s trying to say,” Vivian said. “Because I know what they’re going through.”
Mom and dad didn’t have the higher education opportunities their children do. Rayda sees her son doing well and her daughter mulling schools from across the Carolinas. She would love to see the same for other families who may need a little help. Who may need a mindset switched.
“College is part of education, just like high school,” Rayda said.
Having lived elsewhere, Rayda understands a good education doesn’t just benefit the person who receives it.
“More educated people in our country, we make a more powerful country,” she said.
For more on the program, or to schedule a meeting or presentation, email firstname.lastname@example.org.