Many students do not have the adequate, comprehensive support structure they need to succeed in going to college, and we must correct that.

Photo of Solomon Steinke
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Upon reading through the posts so far from the many astute people contributing to this endeavor, I was struck by one simple fact: many students lack a support structure to get them to and through college, and it is well past time we corrected that. The simple truth of the matter is that while not all guidance counselors or overtaxed, some are, and some simply do not have the time to be a comprehensive mentor to the students they are supposed to advise. Some are even like the one in the post about "you are not college material" - they do not believe in the student, and so that student simply falls by the wayside.

I have seen this in many places, not least within the school I work at in Milwaukee, WI. One counselor is tasked with aiding the high school journey of several hundred students, and also to assist them on their way to college. This counselor has the best of intentions, but is severely overtaxed. Unfortunately, although it may seem that the counselor's job is manageable on its face, many students face barriers requiring consistent and comprehensive aid to resolve, and the counselor simply does not have the time to do so.

For example, many of the students in my College Possible junior cohort face a language barrier - the first language they learned was not English, and they have faced the significant hurdle of attempting to do well in school while experiencing the equivalent of a crash course in a difficult language. This language barrier also makes it difficult for them to write the kinds of essays colleges are looking for, and their guidance counselor and teachers simply do not have the time needed to sit down and help the student perfect the essay.

As another example, some of the students I work with have never had their parents go to college. As a young man whose parents and grandparents went to college, I cannot understate how much that familial support aided me in my own college journey. I was from a low-income family, but my going to college was never questioned, at least by them.

During my senior year in high school, I was utterly unmotivated to do any more schooling, I was so fed up with it. My mother would have none of my lip, however, and just about threatened to expel me from the house if I did not get going on college applications. At the time I was very much angry with her. However, looking back at what I believe to be the best four years of my life, I am so grateful I had a family who would not allow me to just fall by the wayside, and who had the knowledge about how to do what I had to do.

While many of my students have families who want them to succeed, they do not have parents like mine who know enough about college to support them very much. What a lot of these students need most is someone who does know what they need to accomplish and push them to do it. They need someone to be there constantly, aiding them to be more than just a high-school graduate, who will come and find them and actively pursue the betterment of their future. That is what I believe College Possible does best - providing such an interested mentor, someone who will do for these students what my parents did for me, albeit in a much gentler believe in me, and to compel me to believe in myself.

From that belief will come action, and from that action, success. And the success of these students is why we are all educators in the first place. Let us ensure that success is not jeopardized by negligence, whether unintentional or otherwise.

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Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Solomon, Thank you so much for this thoughtful post and sharing your passion for providing students with mentors! This is great start for an idea that would enable all schools to provide mentors to students. You're in an amazing place! How can we help all schools set up this support structure?