When Jerry Rideout was in high school he never gave a lot of thought to attending college. “Growing up, going to college was never really in the conversation; I never considered it as an actual possibility,” Jerry explained. Now a graduate from Minnesota State University, Mankato, with a degree in communications, Jerry has his eyes set on attending graduate school and earning his master’s degree.
Jerry’s career path and track to college was not always clear, even after he joined College Possible at Casimir Pulaski High School on Milwaukee’s south side. During his junior year he completed all the ACT prep and exams but only because his friends were doing it.
Jerry was assigned to a new coach, Matt, during his senior year, but he missed his coach from his junior year, so he stopped going to sessions. That all changed one day, while Jerry was waiting at the bus stop, after skipping another session. “Matt walked up to the bus stop and said I forgot my bus pass as he handed it to me,” Jerry said. “He asked me about my life, if there were any personal problems I wanted to talk about and that he was there for me if I ever needed anything.” This got Jerry thinking during what turned out to be the longest bus ride home of his life.
Matt’s gesture inspired Jerry and he began to utilize the resources offered by College Possible. From that day forward, Jerry attended sessions and worked closely with Matt. “It was different having someone go almost to the edge for you just to reach out a hand. It’s up to you to accept it or not, but just to have someone make that move for me was inspiring.”
Little did Jerry know, this was the beginning of a great friendship for him and Matt. “He was in my office more hours than I could count,” Matt recalled. He assisted Jerry with applying for financial aid, scholarships and colleges, and Jerry became one of a group of students who saw their coach daily. “Once I figured out Matt was here to help me and only here to help me, it opened my eyes; the process went from being bumpy to smoothing out real nice,” said Jerry.
When it came time to apply to schools, Jerry insisted on attending a large, out-of-state school. While Matt was not certain it would be financially viable, he still helped Jerry apply. “I don’t think he would have responded well to me putting limits on him and telling him he’s not going to get in a certain place,” Matt said. “I had to let him go by trial and error.” This helped Jerry contextualize his desires and imagination of what college would be like for him. Matt’s personalized approach with Jerry helped to establish trust between them and nurtured their relationship.
When Jerry did not receive admittance to the large out-of-state schools he applied to, Matt was prepared and suggested Minnesota State University, Mankato, as a school he believed would be a great fit for Jerry. “I’d never even heard of Mankato,” Jerry said, “but Matt researched schools based on my grades, ACT and my financial capabilities… Since he did all this research for me, I figured the least I could do was apply.” Not only did Jerry apply to Mankato, but he was admitted and earned a Bachelor of Science degree as a double major in mass media and communications in the spring of 2019.
When asked how his perception of college changed since starting with College Possible, Jerry said: “My friends said college wasn’t for us but they didn’t realize we had a resource to help bridge the gap. I didn’t think college was for me either, but I was still going to do it. It’s about opportunity and I’m always going to take advantage.”
“College Possible not only showed me I could get into college, it showed me the resources I needed for me to get in.”
College helped Jerry hone and refine his skills, such as his natural ability to network and build meaningful relationships, as well as apply them to his professional ambitions.
Currently, Jerry serves as an AmeriCorps coach for College Possible college students out of the St. Paul, Minnesota site. College coaches support students as they transition from high school into college and persist to graduation. They also help link students to student services already available on campus, and plan on- and off-campus events.
“When I was going over my plan after graduation, I pondered where I would be today without my College Possible coaches. That’s when I knew I wanted to help someone who is in a similar situation to the one I was in.”
My coach, Matt, helped me realize that college was possible for me. Now I want to help out students and show people that college is possible for everyone.