Nelson Lopez is a Computer Science major currently in his junior year at UNC-Chapel Hill. He used Ascend during his time at Olympic High School in Charlotte, NC to help him focus on his academic performance. While using Ascend, Nelson used goal setting to improve his GPA. As a result, he also felt more focused, motivated, and developed skills in self-reflection. We checked in with Nelson to learn more about his experience with Ascend, what he’s doing now, and where he sees himself going.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a high school student?
A: I was a driven student, but I wasn’t very passionate about anything. I knew I wanted to go to college and do something, but I didn’t have a plan on where I wanted to be or how I wanted to get there. My teachers gave me a few different tools to give me an idea of options for my future, and one of those tools was Ascend.
Q: In your own words, how would you describe Ascend?
A: Ascend is a goal-setting platform. It’s useful and allows students to set goals so they can identify something they want to work toward. It helps students reflect and say to themselves “hey– what can I do or what can I change in myself to move forward in my life?” I think self-reflection is a really important skill to have as a student, and I think it’s a skill that helped me get to Chapel Hill.
Q: How did you use Ascend when you were in high school?
A: I used Ascend to set a mix of short and long term goals toward where I wanted to be. I mostly used it for academic goals, but in hindsight, I wish I would have set other goals like athletic or health goals, too. Setting the academic goals impacted my behavior because it made me reflect on who I was and how I wanted to act to succeed.
Q: Did you use any incentives to help keep you motivated to achieve your goals?
A: Some of my teachers used Ascend and they would give us candy or something small for hitting individual goals in their class. I set my own goals, too, though. I worked with my mom to establish incentives for getting a better grade in a class or improving my GPA. Usually, she would take me out to lunch or dinner. Sometimes I received a video game I wanted. But going to lunch or dinner with my mom was a way for her to connect with me about the goals I was working toward and for her to learn about how she was helping me achieve them. It was all related, but I didn’t realize that at the time! I just thought I was getting a good meal.
Q: Who were your advocates?
A: My mom was a big advocate, and I also worked with my teachers. Even though they weren’t formal advocates in Ascend, I considered my peers my advocates, too. I moved right before high school, so I had to get to know a lot of people during this time, but I went from being a student who just showed up every day because that’s what I was supposed to do, to going to school because I wanted to succeed. And Ascend played a big role in that. It builds a feedback loop.
Q: What results did you experience from using Ascend?
A: I increased my GPA from a 3.4 to a 4.0. And I felt more motivated and focused. I started to want to do great things.
Q: What are you up to now at UNC-Chapel Hill?
A: I’m a Junior, majoring in Computer Science. I explored a variety of majors, but I like Computer Science because those skills will allow me to go into any industry or field I decide to go into. I’m also involved in the campus activity board, E-sports, club sports, and I work in UNC’s “Maker Space,” which is a place where anyone on campus can come and use 3D printers, digital cutters, and other tools to make whatever they want. The theory behind the space is that by making things, people can unlock their creativity no matter what subject they are interested in. It’s pretty cool and I really enjoy it, especially when I help faculty make things for research.
Q: Did your experience with Ascend influence how you approach your schoolwork and work now that you are at a university?
A: Yeah, I think goal setting is an essential mindset in terms of how to approach a problem in chunks. And now I set my own goals, especially on things I can directly control, like turning in assignments before the deadline. For example, if I finish an assignment early, I take myself to dinner. And I work with my professors in a similar way to how I worked with my teachers while using Ascend, but on a bigger scale. Eventually, it has become self-sustaining.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: In our generation, a lot of students are disillusioned with higher education. People might not want to do something really cool because of how big and stressful it might seem. But goal setting helps break those big things down into smaller pieces. And it’s really helped me.
Ascend is a student empowerment platform that enables schools and mentoring organizations to cultivate, track, and measure student goals and achievement.Ascend is proud to be a minority and woman-owned business and supports students through schools and mentoring organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, and beyond.