U.Va. College Guides Help Students Pursue Higher Education Options

August 13, 2009

Aug. 13, 2009 — The University of Virginia's College Guides Program has entered its fifth year, placing 21 guides in 20 high schools and three community colleges to help students find their way to college.

The College Guides work with Virginia high school guidance counselors to encourage students who might not otherwise pursue higher education to consider all the options open to them, including schools other than U.Va. Guides also work in community colleges to educate students about transferring to four-year colleges.

The College Guides Program, which was created at U.Va., was the prototype for the National College Advising Corps, now operating in 14 colleges and universities nationwide.

"The College Guide Program has helped many students move onto paths they may not have taken otherwise," said Keith Roots, director of U.Va.'s program. "We're proud to serve as an additional resource to the high schools and community colleges we serve across the Commonwealth."

In Virginia, College Guides worked with 15,408 students in the last academic year, encouraging them to consider post-secondary education and working with students on completing applications, applying for financial aid and making college visits.

"We are honored that this idea of placing recent U.Va. alumni in public high schools and community colleges has had such a strong impact over the last four years," Roots said. "The Guides have directly encouraged tens of thousands to pursue post-secondary education, such as career preparation as well as two- and four-year options."

The Guides program, which has a budget of $900,000, is funded through partnerships with Altria, the J & E Berkley Foundation, the William A. Cooke Foundation, the E. Stuart James Grant Trust, the Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont, and the Patrick County Education Foundation, all of which support guides in their areas.

The program is also on the first year of a renewed three-year grant from AmeriCorps and is receiving federal stimulus money to cover the remainder of the costs. Each College Guide receives a $21,000 service stipend and $5,000 toward either future education or to pay for existing educational debts.

The schools working with the program have seen marked increases in the rates of graduates who go to college.

"Much progress has been made, but there still is so much more to do," Roots said. "Every year we still encounter many students who are not aware of the options before them, or think that education beyond high school somehow is out of reach."

Eight Guides are returning this year, with seven going back to the districts at which they worked last year.

Brendan Sepulveda, 23, of Reston, is returning to Front Royal to build on his experience.

"After being involved in the program for a year, I expect this coming year to be an even better experience," he said. "I will have added responsibilities and will better know how to handle various situations that come up throughout the school year."

David Sexton, 22, of Winchester, is returning to Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria because he wants to give back to the community college system from which he benefitted.

"I expect to hit the ground running," he said. "And continue to provide excellent one-on-one advising to our students."

He also plans to write a booklet explaining the benefits of the community college system and detailing the ins and outs of the transfer process.

"I want it to be a useful resource not only for future College Guides, but also for community college students, high school teachers and counselors, parents and guardians, high school students, and anybody interested in higher education."

The first-time guides also want to help shape the future.

Crystal St. Bernard, 21, of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, and Hyattsville, Md., said she wants to help students reach their full potential and meet their higher education goals.

"I felt a strong calling to serve my community in a rewarding way during the break after graduating and before returning to school to complete a nursing program," she said.

This year's team of College Guides:

Amanda Adams, 22, of Newport News, a sociology graduate who is placed at Chatham High School and Gretna High School.

Dominique Baker, 22, of Hampton, a psychology graduate returning to George Washington High School in Danville.

James C. Bishop, III, 22, of Halifax, a history and sociology graduate with a minor in media studies, who is stationed at Dan River High School and Tunstall High School.

Ellie Canter, 23, of Falls Church, an English and French literature graduate returning to Fluvanna County High School.

Di'Andra L. Coleman, 23, of Louisa, a religious studies graduate placed at Louisa County High School.

India Dillard, 21, of Martinsville, an English language and literature graduate placed at Magna Vista High School in Ridgeway.

Chelsea Duncan, 21, of Richmond, a psychology and African American studies graduate who has been placed at Martinsville High School.

Danny Eckstein, 22, of Harrisonburg, a Spanish graduate who has been placed at Patrick County High School in Stuart.

Sterling Elmore, 21, of Penn Laird, a government and religious studies graduate who has been stationed at Nelson County High School in Lovingston.

Syreeta Fields, 23, of Portsmouth and Chesapeake, who majored in visual arts with a concentration in painting and a minor in biology, is returning to Armstrong High School in Richmond.

Kelly Gould, 22, of Great Falls, an English and psychology graduate returning to Charlottesville High School.

Dreama Lynn Montrief Johnson, 23, of Martinsville, a religious studies graduate returning to William Monroe High School in Stanardsville.

Keyshanna R. Jones, 22, of Stratford, Conn., a foreign affairs graduate who has been placed at Armstrong High School in Richmond.

Ethan Jorgensen-Earp, 22, of Salem, a history graduate who has been stationed at Bassett High School in Bassett.

Catherine Ruth Melton, 22, of Tallahassee, Fla., a history graduate with a minor in art history, who has been stationed at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.

Jill Pritzker, 20, Woodbridge, a graduate in art history and economics, who is stationed at Northern Virginia Community College at Annandale.

Danielle G. Riffe, 21, of Bluefield, W.Va., a history graduate placed at Patrick Henry High School and Holston High School in Washington County.

Brendan Sepulveda, 23, of Reston, a biology and history graduate returning to Skyline High School and Warren County High School in Front Royal.

David Sexton, 22, of Winchester, a history and religious studies graduate returning to the Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria.

Crystal St. Bernard, 21, of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, and Hyattsville, Md., a religious studies graduate placed at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville.

Deshe Elise Taylor, 22, of Willingboro, N.J., a psychology graduate who has been placed at Orange County High School.

— By Matt Kelly