Carolina College Advising Corps

Carolina College Advising Corps (left to right): Meghan Bridges, Camille Cates, Dexter Robinson and Ebonie Leonard

Carolina Graduates Help High School Students Plan for College

In fall 2007, four recent Carolina graduates went back to school – high school – to show their slightly younger protégés at eight schools what it takes to get into college.

Many of the students at these partner high schools may not have thought of college as an option, so they don’t know the steps they need to take. The goal of the Carolina College Advising Corps is to guide them through the process: enrolling in the right classes in high school, registering for the required tests, searching for a school that is a good fit, applying for financial aid.

“We are there to help the counselors,” said Ebonie Leonard, who works at Hillside and Southern high schools in Durham County. “Our focus is on college advising, to show students that there is a future after high school, that there’s more to life than just graduating.”

The other three members of the Carolina College Advising Corps are Meghan Bridges (Chatham Central and Jordan Matthews in Chatham County); Dexter Robinson (Hugh M. Cummings and Graham Central high schools in Alamance County); and Camille Cates (Ben L. Smith and James L. Dudley high schools in Guilford County). While originally planned to expand to 18 schools with funding through the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, thanks to recent gifts from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Annie Penn Community Trust, a total of 13 Carolina Advisors will serves as many as 26 high schools in Fall 2008. These schools range from Ahoskie to Charlotte, including 14 threatened with closure last year under the Leandro ruling.

The Carolina College Advising Corps, housed in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, is led by Wendy Jebens, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions. The Carolina Corps is a constituent program of the National College Advising Corps, a partnership of 11 colleges and universities, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the National College Access Network. Also based in Carolina’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the National Corps is led by Dr. Nicole Hurd, founding director of the College Guide Program at the University of Virginia.

The young advisers set up offices where they can in each of two high schools – sometimes within the guidance office, sometimes in a converted storage closet or at a table in the library – and help students at partner high schools plan their college searches, complete admissions and financial-aid applications and overcome obstacles that might discourage them from continuing their education.

Leonard is counseling a pregnant student who wants to go to nursing school at Carolina. “I have been working with her through this whole process and letting her know not to feel ashamed that she got pregnant while in high school.”

One of Robinson’s students has no parents, works several hours a week and takes classes at the local community college. “He has had a bundle of ups and downs in his personal life, but is still determined to finish out high school and play football on the college level,” he says. “He wants to play because he says, ‘Football is my parents.’”

The advisers have run into student apathy as well as their share of red tape and regulations; but there are many students the advisers can help and who welcome getting their advice where and whenever they can. Once Cates gave advice about going to college to a student who was working the drive-through register at a local fast-food place. “The student was in her uniform at the time, asking to be advised through the window, all while putting someone’s combo in a bag,” Cates says.

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