As an Admissions Counselor in an urban area charged with recruiting racially underrepresented students, I find myself working primarily with “at-risk” students. Those students who are from low-income and first generation backgrounds are very much like myself, as I come from the very same background as many of the students with whom I work. Having that knowledge, I know how important that external extra push can be for a student. In many cases I not only become a support system for the students, but for their families as well. I’ve found that even in working with students who have had a parent who attended college, so much has changed in terms of the application and financial aid processes that I’m supporting both in making it to the finish line. I’m sure those of you who sit on the other side of the desk in the high school counselor role, feel the same way. Instead of a sprint, it is sometimes a slow, agonizing trot to the May 1 National Decision Day deadline.
Since the ever growing population of “second-generation” college students of color is now booming, I find myself wondering more and more how we will adapt to serve them. Although the student and their family may have more of a footing on where to begin the process and a few extra dollars, they are not without a need for guidance as well. Many of these students find themselves burdened with the desires their parents have for their futures, not those that they have for themselves. Counseling these students often begins with deciding what THEY actually want to study and want to pursue long term.
Now as I mark my 4th year in admissions (I can’t believe the first group of students I recruited graduates this year. #ImNotReady #ImNotEvenThatOld), I find myself really gaining my footing in the world of Higher Education. I find myself now more than ever, drawn to do work in inclusion and access not just because it’s so much of a hot topic in the national landscape, but because I relate so personally. Will more states scrap Affirmative Action laws? Will more cities become sanctuary cities for undocumented students? Will more universities supply the dollars necessary to get these students to graduation? Unfortunately, we have now entered a political season where those in power and those seeking power know nothing about what these students are facing because they can’t even relate from an economic standpoint. Watching Bernie Sanders question Betsy Devos was an absolute #Trainwreck, but I couldn’t look away because I was so baffled that she thought any of her answers were appropriate. #WhoPreppedHer? #TheyShouldBeFired. Contingent upon how her confirmation (or hopefully lack thereof) goes, I’m not really sure how or where I will fit into these conversations, but I hope to offer some insight and encourage important dialogue. I want to help make the term “at-risk” nonexistent and “at-promise” politically correct and acceptable.
Though there are many programs that foster and encourage inclusion and access, it starts with the gatekeepers who keep them operational. What good is a TRIO program if the person running it isn’t dedicated to making it work? Though becoming tired and uninspired happens easily in the education world because #BurnOut is real, don’t forget that glimmer of hope that drew you to your work in the first place. Many of us walked through the doors of Higher Ed in order to pull more people through who look like we do; don’t give up on them now. Just some food for thought…
#ShamelessPlug: For those of you in Pennsylvania, consider registering for the 47th annual Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education (PBCOHE) conference. This year’s theme is Inclusion: The New Face of Affirmative Action? I’ve never planned a conference before, but I think it’s finna be #LIT (or did we retire that word?). Either way, find more information at www.pbcohe.com.
Oh, and #HappyBlackHistoryMonth!