Those who have recently finished their own college experiences are among the best at guiding the next generation toward higher education.
This is the mission of the Virginia College Advising Corps, through which recent graduates of the University of Virginia, UVA’s College at Wise and several other schools will spend the next year helping low-income, underrepresented and first-generation high school students navigate the college admissions process. The program started 14 years ago at UVA and has since expanded to a national non-profit that includes 17 states.
Forty-one recent graduates make up the corps. Working in Virginia high school counseling offices, they advise students who might otherwise not think about higher education, arrange college visits and assist with filing admission and financial aid applications.
The program has added seven new partner high schools this year, and is partnering for the first time with the non-profit PATH Foundation of Warrenton, which is funding four of those placements.
“College enrollment rates have declined for eight consecutive years. Our advisers spur a reverse in that trend, with VCAC partner high schools seeing, on average, a 9-percentage-point increase in post-secondary enrollment,” Joy Pugh, director of the Virginia College Advising Corps, said. “Our data-driven approach produces outcomes not only for individual students; it also shifts the college-going culture of an entire school.”
Under Pugh’s leadership, the Virginia Corps has tripled the number of advisers and partner high schools. This year in Virginia, the 41 college advisers will serve 46 high schools. Since the program began, more than 140 college graduates have spread across the commonwealth to assist high school students in their higher education decisions. The advisers make a two-year commitment to the program.
“Our program works because of the incredible people who become advisers,” Pugh said. “The dedication that they have to serving students, families and communities is genuine and tireless. They provide useful, tailored information and one-on-one mentorship at a critical turning point in a young person’s life.”
Nicole Izurieta of Herndon, a 2019 UVA psychology graduate and first-year adviser, had a good experience with her high school counselor and she wants to provide the same level of support to other high school students.
“College should be accessible to all – regardless of where you come from, how much money your family has and what the college-going culture in your hometown might be,” she said. “Being a college adviser means advocating for students who are on the journey to young adulthood, supporting them in times of hardship while also rightfully celebrating every success along the way. College advisers serve as allies, empathetic listeners and ‘near-peer’ mentors. I believe that this position can change lives and serve as the great equalizer.”
“I am excited to take my knowledge of college advising back to my hometown and give back to the community that made me who I am today,” said Taylor Mullins of Wise, a graduate of UVA’s College at Wise who will be a first-year adviser at her alma mater, Central High School, in Wise. “Being a college adviser to me means being able to help low-income, first-generation, and/or under represented high school students who were like myself, throughout Virginia. I want these high school students to know that they are not alone and they can achieve their dreams.”
The advisers help the high school students explore multiple higher education options, not just UVA.
“Every student deserves the opportunity to access higher education,” Pugh said. “There are many paths available – a four-year school, two-year school, certificate programs, trade schools, etc. – but executing the steps to make that plan a reality is essential. That is where the college advisers are essential. They utilize a ‘match & fit’ framework taking into account academic match, career interests, financial aid packages and other factors. They then ensure students are completing all the necessary steps.”
Last year Virginia advisers assisted students with 14,177 college application submissions, ensured 4,571 completions of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and helped students secure $105 million in financial aid.
This year’s college advisers are:
- Jeffery Allgood of Chicago, a 2018 UVA African American and African studies graduate, who is a second-year adviser at William Fleming High School in Roanoke.
- India Anderson of Roanoke, a 2016 Virginia State University health and physical education graduate, who is a first-year adviser at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke.
- Jordan Arnold of Lexington, a 2019 UVA economics and political and social thought graduate, who is a first-year adviser at Covington High School.
- Christen Barco of Norfolk, a 2017 University of Mary Washington psychology graduate, who is a first-year adviser at Orange County High School.
- Amina Bracken of Richmond, a 2018 UVA women, gender and sexuality studies graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Armstrong High School in Richmond.
- Kayla Brooks of Chesapeake, a 2018 UVA foreign affairs and Middle Eastern studies graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Harrisonburg High Scool.
- Marissa Bryant of Bassett, a 2019 criminology graduate of the University of Lynchburg, who is a first-year adviser at Bassett High School in Henry County, from which she graduated.
- Ben Buell of Richmond, a 2019 UVA global security and justice and history graduate, who is a first-year adviser at William Monroe High School in Greene County.
- Tyshera Chambers of Buckingham, a 2019 political science and sociology graduate from Norfolk State University with a minor in liberal arts, who is a first-year adviser at Cumberland County High School.
- Raleigh Christian of Kents Store, a 2019 political science graduate from Virginia Tech, who is a first-year adviser at Louisa County High School.
- Gracie Clements of Moncure, North Carolina, a 2018 psychology graduate from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, who is a second-year adviser at Magna Vista High School in Henry County.
- Kristopher Coachman of Chicago, a 2018 UVA African-American studies graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Petersburg High School.
- Rachel Davies of Yorktown, a 2019 UVA graduate majoring in global development studies and French, who is a first-year advser at the Charles City County Public School.
- Liam Donohue of Madison Heights, a 2019 UVA anthropology and environmental sciences graduate, who is a first-year adviser at Nelson County High School.
- Charity Robinson Elmes of Greenville, North Carolina, a 2018 Liberty University psychology and counseling graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Patrick County High School.
- Melinda Espinoza of Chatham, a 2019 UVA biology and psychology graduate, who is a first-year adviser at the Chatham, from which she graduated, and Gretna high schools in Pittsylvania County.
- Katherine “Kat” Faunce of Fairfax, a 2018 UVA psychology graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Dan River and Tunstall high schools in Pittsylvania County.
- Jasmine Holliday of Woodbridge, a 2019 James Madison University graduate with a major in justice studies with a concentration in social justice and engagement and a minor in African, African American and diaspora studies, who is a first-year adviser at Culpeper County High School.
- Nicole Izurieta of Herndon, a 2019 UVA psychology graduate, who is a first-year adviser at Rappahannock High School in Richmond County and at Washington and Lee High School in Westmoreland County.
- Jo Jones of Buies Creek, North Carolina, a 2016 Campbell University English graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Northumberland and Lancaster high schools.
- Kendall Jordan of Richmond, a 2018 UVA psychology and Spanish graduate, who is a second-year adviser at George Washington High School in Danville.
- Joshua Justus of Hurley, a 2019 UVA biology and philosophy graduate, who is a first-year adviser at Liberty High School in Fauquier County.
- Jordan Kijewski of Haymarket, a 2019 UVA government and American studies graduate, with a religious studies minor, who is a first-year adviser at Huguenot High School in Richmond.
- Melody Lipford of Pennington Gap, a 2019 Emory & Henry College English literature graduate with a minor in Spanish, who is a first-year adviser at John I Burton High School in Norton and Eastside High School in Wise County.
- Jordan Meadows of Richmond, a 2017 UVA pyschology graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Dinwiddie High School in Dinwiddie County.
- Taylor Mullins of Wise, a 2018 business administration graduate from the University of Virginia's College at Wise, who is a first-year adviser at Central High School in Wise, from which she graduated in 2015.
- Reilly Park of Lorton, a 2017 UVA politics graduate, who is a first-year adviser at John Marshall High School in Richmond.
- Charles Haden Parrish of Fluvanna County, a 2018 UVA sociology and African and African American studies graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Fluvanna County High School.
- Dasmen Richards of Fayetteville, Georgia, a 2018 UVA foreign affairs and African American studies graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Amelia County High School.
- Rebecca Richardson of Danville, a 2018 UVA politics graduate with an urban and environmental planning minor, who is a second-year adviser at Galileo Magnet High School in Danville.
- Kianna Rollins of Fredericksburg, a 2018 UVA sociology graduate, who is a second-year adviser at James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg.
- Ahmad Rudd of Richmond, a 2017 art and history major from Hampden-Sydney College, who is a first-year adviser at Randolph-Henry High School in Charlotte County.
- Brandon Shields of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a 2018 Liberty University developmental psychology and Spanish graduate, who is a second-year adviser at King & Queen Central High School.
- Lia Slaton of Alexandria, a 2018 philosophy-neuroscience-psychology graduate from Washington University in St. Louis, who is a second-year adviser at Rappahannock County High School.
- Cameron Stokes of Portsmouth, a 2019 UVA education, youth and social innovation and psychology graduate, who is a first-year adviser at Martinsville High School.
- Kayla Taylor of Marion, a 2017 UVA education, youth and social innovation graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Caroline High School in Caroline County.
- Liz Wachter of Luray, a 2018 UVA women, gender and sexuality studies graduate, who is a second-year adviser at Charlottesville High School.
- Breona Walker of Richmond, a 2016 James Madison University marketing graduate, who is a first-year adviser at Sussex Central High School.
- Darien Waters of Silver Spring, Maryland, a 2019 UVA psychology graduate, who is a first-year adviser at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.
- Erica Wood of Louisa, a 2019 health sciences graduate from James Madison University, who is a first-year adviser at Eastern View High School in Culpeper County.
- Timmy Vadasz of Mechanicsville, a 2018 youth and social innovation and economics graduate from UVA, who is a second-year adviser at Buckingham County High School.