Senior year for College Possible high school students can be defined in two words: organized chaos. From applying to colleges, filling out financial aid forms and otherwise preparing for a huge life transition, these students accomplish a lot in just one year.
In the midst of all this, I noticed Elizabeth’s half-raised hand. Pausing by her desk, I patiently waited as she asked me a question about ACT fee waivers. Confused by the context and timing of the question, I reminded Elizabeth that she had already taken the ACT twice. Her scores were strong. Why did she want to take it again?
“It’s not for me,” she clarified, “It’s for my cousin, Anareli. She’s also a senior and I told her about what we’re doing in College Possible. She wants to apply to colleges too!”
“Bring your cousin to session!” I suggested enthusiastically.
Elizabeth paused before responding, “Actually, that’s the thing. She has a baby. She needs to take care of her after school. I was hoping if you explained it to me, I could help her out later.”
This honest admission became what I would soon see as Elizabeth’s own induction as a defacto College Possible coach.
In session and via text, I began to anticipate Elizabeth’s barrage of questions as information gathering to pass along to her cousin. At FAFSA night at school, I was able to watch as both Elizabeth and Anareli successfully submitted the FAFSA. During lunch, they came into the College Possible office so we could make follow-up calls to colleges. Behind the scenes, I know Elizabeth was going home from session and walking her cousin through the very processes that had overwhelmed her just a few months prior.
Soon, Elizabeth’s successes were reported alongside those of her cousin. Over Thanksgiving, Elizabeth sent me a celebratory text that she had been admitted to her first college. Anareli’s acceptance letter followed soon after.
As of now, Elizabeth has been accepted to three four-year colleges, and these amazing options will allow her to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse. Anareli has been accepted to the same colleges, also opening up a path to success.
It’s hard to convey the pride I feel watching Elizabeth be able to so directly impact the futures of her cousin and young niece. What our students learn goes beyond simply gaining college knowledge. Elizabeth has become a fierce advocate, a patient teacher and an unyielding support system in her own right.
Anareli isn’t in my College Possible cohort, but I feel her victories as acutely as I do those of the students who are on my roster. Stories like these only remind me that what we do in College Possible doesn’t just shape the futures of our own students: these successes ripple out and impact families and future generations.
And that’s not the end of the family story: Elizabeth’s younger sister just applied to join the newest College Possible cohort. She will soon follow her sister and cousin’s footsteps and be part of the college graduating class of 2023.
This story was written by High School Senior Coach and AmeriCorps alum, Kate Michaels.