I have been working in education for nearly twenty years, as a high school teacher and administrator, university instructor, teacher with the Peace Corps, and now a researcher in education at Stanford University. Most of my career has been devoted to supporting underserved students (and the people who support them) in pursuing their academic pursuits. I recognize that if we want things to get better in our communities and beyond, we should heed the advice from our elders and think about our education, and in this case, college. 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 are never addressed; 2) the families that need to advocate for their students to 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 undergrad at NYU, I studied to be a teacher. I always dreamed of becoming a teacher but I never realized the importance of creating my education philosophy around the goal of college until I was put in front of students. I became curious about how schools and education were preparing students for success in college and career.
While at UCLA and UC Berkeley for graduate school, I studied racial formation and saw how malleable our understandings of self can be. And there is not greater way to see that interplay than at a school. 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 graduate student 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 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.