School Counseling program welcomes two graduate students from the National College Advising Corps
March 19, 2010
Two students, currently working with the National College Advising Corps, have recently been accepted into the School Counseling program in the School of Education. Katie George and Justin Simmons are completing their second year of service with the National College Advising Corps and will enter the Master of Education program in School Counseling this summer.
The National College Advising Corps is a two-year program that places recent college graduates in low-income high schools and community colleges across the nation to serve as advisors to high school students and encourage them to pursue a college education. The Corps works with a consortium of 12 colleges and universities across the country.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the national headquarters and institutional home of the consortium of universities that are partners in the Corps.
For the past two years, both George and Simmons have been working in high schools where the rate of college matriculation is lower than average for the state – George in a rural area of Pennsylvania and Simmons in an urban setting in North Carolina.
Over the two-year period, George has worked at three rural Pennsylvania high schools. Upon her arrival at the schools, she realized that many students there did not consider college an option for them. She worked to encourage those first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students to go on to post-secondary education.
She gave classroom presentations on colleges and careers, and met individually with hundreds of students to discuss college and career options for them, as well as with parents to discuss planning for their children’s educational future. She created and distributed brochures about the college selection process. She organized group events, including a “Planning for College Night” to provide information to students and parents, college fairs to bring college representatives to the high schools and a “Decision Day” to celebrate the post-secondary commitments made by the high school seniors.
Through all these activities, she encouraged the students to believe that with hard work and dedication, higher education is a realistic option for them.
Simmons implemented similar initiatives in two low-income urban high schools in Charlotte. He organized group events to encourage students and their families to consider, plan for and apply to colleges. He met one-on-one with many students and their families to provide information about the college admissions process and financial aid. He assessed the newly-established advising programs that he had established, and worked to insure that the programs would be sustained after he completed his service to the schools.
“I feel that I made a significant impact on my students in the past two years,” said Simmons. “The students I worked with used me as a resource as well as someone they could relate to. They came to me when they needed help registering for the SAT and ACT, applying to college or for scholarships, or working on college essays.”
Having completed his undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, Simmons was already familiar with the University when he began thinking about where to pursue graduate study. George first became interested in UNC-Chapel Hill when she attended the national training session for students entering the National College Advising Corps, which is held on the UNC campus each summer.
“Once I visited UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school there,” she said. “I knew that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had a wonderful master’s program in school counseling and that I would be honored to be a part of it. [The Advising Corps] has played a large role in my decision to go to UNC, and I am extremely excited to be a part of the 2010 school counseling cohort.”
Associate Professor Patrick Akos, coordinator of the School Counseling program, says that his program and the National College Advising Corps share a basic goal – to encourage students to pursue roles as advocates for equity and excellence in education. “For some time, Dr. Nicole Hurd, who directs the Corps at UNC-Chapel Hill, and I have been talking about ways our programs can work together,” he said. “College access is an important part of the school counselor role – and a critical part of President Obama’s recent education policy announcements.”
Akos continued, “Justin and Katie bring great experience with them into our program, and we hope to be the professional link to further education service for National Advising Corp members. Helping students understand their own strengths and access resources in the community to pursue dreams is what school counseling should be about – and these two Corps members have demonstrated this capacity in their leadership efforts in schools around college access.”
Hurd also serves as a clinical assistant professor in School Counseling in the School of Education. Among other activities, she works with Akos to strengthen the School of Education’s capacity by creating graduate course work around college access and college admissions counseling.