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Young Leadership Council’s ‘College Admissions Project’ guides low income, first generation college students through admissions process

Written by  IntheNOLA.com
For high schoolers, applying to college can be an exciting, if not overwhelming process. And for many young New Orleanians, the challenge can be even greater. Maybe you’re the first in your family to go to college…maybe college doesn’t seem like an option because of finances…maybe there’s no one to help, support, and encourage you through the process.
 
Local non-profit and non-partisan organization, The Young Leadership Council, is looking to help those particularly vulnerable young New Orleanians with its College Admissions Project (CAP). “The College Admissions Project helps high school seniors from New Orleans public schools gain access to higher education,” explained CAP. “We focus on low-income and/or first generation students. Given the student population enrolled in public high schools in New Orleans, we also predominantly work with students of color. The goal of CAP is to help students through the often confusing and time-consuming college admissions and enrollment processes, and help them make a successful transition from high school to college. In addition, we want to increase the college-going rate of students from our partner high schools and help the schools develop a college-going culture.”
Strictly volunteer-based, CAP recruits young New Orleans professionals with college degrees to mentor local high school students in need of assistance with college preparations. “Each CAP student is paired with a mentor, whom we call a guide. Students and guides are matched based on gender, as well as taking their career and other interests into account. CAP facilitates an initial meet and greet between the guide, student, and student’s parents/guardians. After the meet and greet, each guide/student pairing meets in person a minimum of once a month and does e-mentoring by phone, text, email, Facebook, or Google chat a minimum of once per week. Guides help their students with many aspects of the college application process, such as developing a college list, researching and applying for schools, signing up and preparing for the ACT/SAT, working on college essays, researching scholarship opportunities, and completing the FAFSA for financial aid.” 
 
Project Leader Christina Hendrick decided to get involved in CAP after going through the college application process herself in high school. “When I was approaching my high school graduation, I didn’t have any idea of what my post high school plans were, nor did I think that college was even an option due to cost,” she said. “I was highly considering joining the military. However, once my ACT and graduate exit exam scores were received by my high school, my counselor, coach, and even the principal stepped up and began providing support and direction to help me navigate my way through the process. I was able to obtain my undergraduate degree with little cost due to academic, scholarships, and other scholarships that I was awarded. Now, I feel it is my responsibility to help provide similar guidance to students as early on in the process as possible in order for them to make the best decisions specific to their dreams.”

For Project Leader Mark Clayton, CAP has allowed him to share his knowledge with others in the same situation that he was once in. “College access has always been my passion, especially since I was not the traditional student,” he said. “I struggled throughout high school to maintain decent grades due to unfortunate circumstances and my counselor did not believe I was college material. I was told to go to community college because my grades were horrible and instead of helping me to create an action plan, I felt as though they were discouraging me from accomplishing my goal. I researched various methods for getting into a university and ultimately found a creative solution that helped me to get into Xavier University. My involvement with CAP allows me to help those students who have no one to help them overcome their challenges.”

CAP currently partners with The International High School of New Orleans, The New Orleans Science and Mathematics High School, and Lake Area New Tech Early College High School with 46 students paired with 46 guides. Students from these schools are eligible to submit an application to receive a CAP guide regardless of their academic records, including GPA or test scores. In addition, at each of the schools, CAP offers scholarships for students and this year will feature the first-time YLC Dumestre Scholarship, which will provide one CAP student the ability to attend the University of New Orleans tuition-free for all 4 years.
 
In the future, CAP hopes to be able to support their CAP alumni once they have transitioned into college life. “We would like to track CAP alumni to see how they are succeeding in college and connect CAP students to each other if they enroll at the same college, creating a peer-mentor network among CAP alumni. We would also like to work with more schools in the future. CAP’s long-term goal is to reach program capacity by offering the program to cohorts of 25-30 students at 4 to 5 high schools in New Orleans.”

For Mark, CAP provides several rewards. “Some of the rewards include seeing the amount of college acceptance letters. There is something about seeing someone pressing forward in life that provides me with internal happiness and motivation. I absolutely enjoy working with the students and helping them prepare for their transition to college.”
 
Christina added, “One of the biggest rewards is hearing from the students in their third or fourth year of college and seeing first hand the growth and confidence they have gained where initially, they may have felt that cost or scores were insurmountable obstacles.”
 
Are you or someone you know interested in becoming a guide with the College Admissions Project? Well, they’re always looking for volunteers! “Volunteering as a guide is extremely rewarding! First-generation college students, in particular, often need more assistance with the college admissions process since they do not have someone in their immediate family who has direct experience with higher education. When a CAP student gets an acceptance letter to a college, it is a great moment for the student and his/her guide. CAP guides often fondly recall their own college experiences, and helping someone else get to college. Although CAP asks for an academic year commitment, there have been guides who keep in touch with their CAP student once the student is enrolled in college and help them succeed in college.”
 
For more information about the Young Leadership Council’s College Admissions Project, please visit the website.
Last modified on Wednesday, 27 January 2016
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