I am a high school teacher and former university instructor who has been working in college-access for the majority of my career in education. I have found that a few things are missing in the process: 1) most organizations and college advisors are interested in getting students into college but the additional priorities of graduating students with as little debt as possible is never a priority; 2) the families that need to advocate that their students attend prestigious universities are the ones who least likely know that they have to do so; and 3) most organizations and college advisors have little knowledge of the public school system and how to navigate that system with the goal of graduating from a university. In other words, the landscape in college advising currently has private school students with means and access continuing to tap into those same resources to graduate from top universities. I am about changing that.
When I was in undergraduate school at NYU studying to be a teacher, my students often told me how much they relied on me to be their role model. While this certainly adds quite a bit of pressure to anyone in their early twenties, I was honored to be that person for them especially since I didn’t see very many other people of color going back into our communities to make changes. From meeting people, I realized that this wasn’t because we didn’t want to; it was because we didn’t have the tools to do it. A college degree is a critical tool.
While at UCLA and UC Berkeley for graduate school, these suspicions were confirmed. My second year at UCLA was the year that only six African American male non-athletes were in the entire freshman class. Six. I was also a researcher for a college-enrollment think-tank and a teacher in LAUSD. When I returned to the Bay Area for more graduate school–at the time, one of twelve African American post-undergraduate students entering that year–I continued teaching and working in public and private schools and was a consultant for Oakland Unified School District. The most astounding piece that I learned during this time, especially in comparison to the private school models, is that low college enrollment for students of color, low-income students, and first generation college students doesn’t have to be something that just is. There are proactive steps that college-bound students take beginning in middle school to ensure their enrollment and success in universities.
Once I learned and really understood that critical piece of information, I began working with middle and high school students in the field of college-access. The thing that bugged me the most is that most public school students figure they just need to earn good grades in the classes they think will get them into the college of their choice. They think college scholarships are not for them and are trying to figure a way to be okay with a tremendous amount of debt. And they assume that students in college are dealing with the same questions. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Having been a public school teacher for so long, I have the additional advantage of understanding the nuances of public schools and situations unique to public school students. To date, students I have worked with on my own or with other organizations have seen success in various public and private colleges and universities; all of which have majority to full-funding packages and are on-track to graduate. The goal to change the landscape of who has access to what is coming to fruition.