Co-Executive Director, Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment, San Diego State University
The Journal of College Access has published a special issue, “College Access and Success for Undocumented Students.” This edition sought manuscript submissions that offered innovative perspectives and interventions in the context of college and career readiness and postsecondary access for undocumented students. This issue also seeks to increase awareness and deepen the understanding of sustainable frameworks that support the success of these students.
The goal for this issue is to provide a significant contribution to the fields of secondary education, sociology, higher education, counselor education, student services, and educational leadership. We also hope to help bridge research and practice and anticipate that service providers, educators, other advocates, and those interested in utilizing research to inform their policy work will gain further insight as they lead the efforts to create institutional and systemic change for undocumented students. As such, the completed journal includes the work of researchers, counselor educators, practitioners, educational leaders, college access partners, and doctoral candidates.
Selected papers for this issue represent an array of research-driven approaches, best practices, and policies at the district or college level. We anticipate that this issue will further enhance the professional development of those directly working with undocumented students.
We see that despite the many efforts, resources made available, and policies adopted to support undocumented students in their post-secondary attainment, they continue to grapple with trauma and mental health issues; even before the Covid-19 pandemic. So, while we can acknowledge their resiliency and strength, we are called to recognize that it is coupled with fears, anxiety, studentsstill living in the shadows, and trauma. In other words, the resilience and strength students exhibit, and their experienced trauma and mental health concerns are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the research shows that resiliency and strength can manifest themselves amidst the trauma and mental health issues undocumented students experience. Lastly, we must be mindful that for undocumented students, post-secondary education is not a rite of passage, but an arduous undertaking. Not including how hard it is to be a college student.
Overall, this special issue highlights the continuous need to unveil the barriers undocumented students face in their path to higher education. Qualitative studies show that students must always be central in this work. Several of the proposed models throughout this special issue showcase the possibilities for educators, advocates, and allies to support students. The manuscripts as a collective show that most important in the work of supporting undocumented students in their path toward postsecondary education is the need to continue to highlight existing systemic injustices and ways to bring about systemic change. However, most important to consider is the resiliency of undocumented students and the invaluable role of their advocacy. We as practitioners and scholars cannot do our work without including student voice and involvement.
Special Issue Highlights:
Cost continues to be the leading barrier for students.
Discrepancies at the national, state, and institutional levels continue to exist regarding enrollment options, practices, and policies.
School counselors and college access partners still lack adequate preparation and knowledge about the process to post-secondary education for undocumented students.
Even in undocu-friendly, undocu-competent, or sanctuary schools or districts, students continue to experience racism, micro-aggression, or exclusionary practices.
Allyship from the practitioners, institutions, and community-based leaders, and stakeholders can have a positive impact on how students navigate existing barriers and personal hardships, and persistence.
Student activism is instrumental in establishing institutional and systemic change.
Despite potential risks, students perceive research participation as an avenue for continued advocacy for other undocumented students.
Parents and loved ones continue to be an invaluable asset toward student success.
Future Research and Call to Action
We must better understand how trauma and mental health impacts undocumented students’ postsecondary experiences.
It is important to explore models for undocu-competence for practitioner, institutional, and national levels.
It is important to identify information and/or resources for students in absence of undocu-competent, safe individuals or institutions.
Models of mentoring unique to undocumented students must be explored.
We should also investigate what makes for successful partnerships of schools and community-based and other non-profit organizations.
As we reflect on the diverse contributions of the authors and the stories shared by undocumented students, their families, allies, and practitioners, we are calling for further research and policy inquiry. Many authors are from states and institutions with policies that are unfriendly to undocumented students, and further research and legislation must be created to improve the educational trajectories for these students across the United States. Additionally, in many states, undocumented students attend community colleges at higher rates than 4-year universities. Therefore, it is imperative that further research on the pathways to and through community college —including non-credit courses, technical education (also known as vocational), and general education or transfer pathways — is completed. We hope this issue will lead to new research and create change at local levels and beyond.
The first five articles in this issue feature the experiences of undocumented students and their loved ones.
Hyein Lee draws from TheDream.US’s latest survey data of 2,681 undocumented students surveyed during the COVID-19 pandemic to identify their specific needs for college completion and career readiness, as well as institutional supports needed for equitable access to social mobility.
Carolina Valdivia, Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, Lucas Schacht, Juan Duran, and Sussana Mendoza, members of the UndocuResearch Project, discuss how the political terrain has impacted undocumented high school students and share key recommendations for educators and counselors.
Stephany Cuevas, through the ecological systems theory, highlights the significant impact the political climate in the United States has on undocumented Latinx parents’ engagement in their children’s education.
Brianna R. Ramirez describes five particular ways in which racist nativism underlies undocumented Latinx college access experiences.
Rachel E. Freeman and Carolina Valdivia focus on undocumented graduate students, specifically the imperative for colleges and universities to build equitable programs at the graduate and professional degree levels. The authors share what they learned working with My Undocumented Life and their facilitation of dozens of UndocuGrads Workshops.
The last seven articles highlight effective interventions and approaches for impactful advocacy.
Katherine Bernal-Arevalo, Sergio Pereyra, Dominiqua M. Griffin, and Gitima Sharma share school counselors’ perspectives on the experiences of undocumented student and highlight how school counselors can implement programs and remove barriers that make college inaccessible for undocumented students.
Keisha Chin Goobsy addresses the need for mentoring undocumented students using the cultural wealth mentoring model and other impactful strategies.
Nicholas Tapia-Fuselier examines the ways in which undocumented student resource centers support undocumented students and contribute to institutional efforts to enhance “undocu-competence.”
Patty Witkowsky, Jennifer Alanis, and Nicholas Tapia-Fuselier discuss how intentionally engaging undocumented students and equipping faculty and staff creates an “undocu-competent” culture that promotes and sustains student success.
Rachel E. Freeman, Daniela Iniestra Varelas, and Daniel Castillo showcase university presidents featured in the film “College Presidents with Undocumented Students” to demonstrate their leadership in building equity with undocumented students.
John A. Vasquez, Alejandra Acosta, Rosario Torres, and Melissa Hernandez describe how a group of undergraduate and graduate University of Michigan student researchers, both documented and undocumented, developed an instrument and website to analyze institutional policies related to in-state resident tuition, admission, and financial aid in the state of Michigan.
Iliana Perez, Nancy Jodaitis, and Victor Garcia from Immigrants Rising highlight lessons and best practices from the California Campus Catalyst Fund, support programs for undocumented students at 32 campuses within the public higher education segments in California.
We continue to be grateful for the scholars and practitioners who continue to advocate for the social and racial equity of undocumented students. We especially thank the many undocumented students and their loved ones who continue to engage in their educational dreams and the educators who support them on this journey.
Diana Camilo, Ed.D, LCP, NCC is an Assistant Professor at CSU San Bernardino. Her expertise is in school counseling, student services, and administration. As administrator for Chicago Public Schools, she provided district-wide planning, management, and the evaluation of interventions and policies to support and sustain the implementation of school counseling programs. Her work predominantly explores culturally responsive practices, school counseling, and the college and career readiness of minoritized populations. She will also serve as co-director of the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment (CEPA). She was also the founder and chair of the Supporting Access to Higher Education for Immigrant and Undocumented Students conference at SDSU and is a member of the UndocuResearch Project.
Should I still apply to college? Is college still worth it? How can I even think about applying to college with everything else that is going on in my life? This pandemic has made everything more challenging than it already was.
These are common questions that many seniors and adults are asking themselves. Many students may be wondering about the next step in their education given the uncertainty of the past few years. High school seniors have had to do many things differently since the spring of their sophomore year. Some are still virtual while others may be in-person with the possibility of suddenly being sent home to quarantine lingering over their heads. Sporting events and other afterschool activities may be limited or canceled due to COVID-19 outbreaks or staff shortages. It also continues to be challenging hanging out with friends when there are still limitations for large group gatherings without masks.
I want students to know that college is still an option! Students with some training after high school—whether that’s a year of training for a professional certificate or four years of college—earn more, learn more, and tend to be more active in life. This isn’t just another couple of years of school. It is the difference between thriving and simply surviving in life. The difference between living check-to-check and barely making ends meet and thriving in a career field that aligns to your passions and having the financial means to save for the future.
September 17th was #WhyApply (to college) day, a day where school counselors and staff, state leaders, and community members came together on social media to remind students why they should apply to college. #WhyApply is sponsored by the American College Application Campaign (ACAC), an initiative of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, which partners with thousands of high schools across the country each fall to host events supporting students through the college application process, especially first-generation college students and those from low-income families who may not otherwise apply to college. This year we anticipate nearly 6,000 high schools will host application completion events between September and December.
Many students are seeking individualized support and assistance as they prepare for life after high school. And while it is important to keep a strong focus on the Class of 2022, we must also support those who most recently graduated from high school. That’s why San Diego State University Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment (CEPA) and ACAC are coming together to address the college enrollment crisis. Through the COVID-19 Enrollment and Persistence Strategy Grant, funded by The Kresge Foundation, ACAC and CEPA aim to create a K12/higher education bridge focused on unpacking advising and counseling practices that best support recent high school graduates. You can learn more about these resources by visiting https://education.sdsu.edu/cepa.
College is still a viable option and the ability to pursue a more stable future is within reach! Having hopes and dreams of attending college is the first step and applying is the next step! Do not let this opportunity slip by your students! School counselors play a critical role to ensure students have everything that is needed to pursue their dreams and get that college degree!
The COVID-19 pandemic and the way it has upended society might dissuade some in pursuing higher education, but don’t be fooled. Do not let your students miss out on the opportunity to have a passionate career and make more money! Help students apply to college today!
Ashley Johnson is a program officer at The Kresge Foundation supporting the work of the Education Program. Prior to joining the foundation, she served as the Executive Director of the Detroit Promise program and remains passionate in the pursuit of ensuring every student has an opportunity to achieve a postsecondary degree regardless of their financial situation.
Over the last couple of weeks I have experienced some very proud and exciting moments. As I scrolled through my social media page I saw so many of my former students graduating from college. It was exciting because they were all students from my first class as a counselor at University Prep Art & Design. For the past six years I have had the pleasure of supporting the graduating classes at UPAD with developing plans to help them reach their postsecondary goals. As a college coordinator I have the distinct role of navigating students through the complicated process of filling out college applications, financial aid, scholarships, housing applications and much more. Above all however, I believe my biggest responsibility in this role is to help students believe that they can reach their dreams. It is an honor, and is more than a job to me, it’s my passion.
As I draw close to the end of my sixth year in this role I reflect back to my first year as a college coordinator. I had the goal of being a hero who would come in and save students by getting them out the hood and into college. I had my checklist of items that I needed each student to do:
College Acceptance Letter: CHECK ✅
FASFA Completed: CHECK ✅
Scholarship: CHECK ✅
Choosing your college and orientation date: CHECK ✅
It was near the end of my very first year… I was going through my checklist with each student, and came across a student who hadn’t made his official college decision. This was weird to me because we had met several times and decided on a school that matched perfectly to his needs both academically and financially. I angrily called him to my office so that we could discuss his procrastination. I had an entire speech in my head of what I would say to him “YOU ARE GOING TO MISS OUT ON THIS OPPORTUNITY!” “YOU HAVE TO DO BETTER!” and my all time favorite “YOU CAN’T APPROACH THE REAL WORLD LIKE THIS!” When the student walked into my office I wasted no time in questioning him. “WHY HAVEN’T YOU PAID YOUR DEPOSIT AND SIGNED UP FOR ORIENTATION?!” The student looked at me as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He paused and said, “Mr. Johnson, I… AM… SCARED”. My anger instantly turned into disappointment. Not toward him but disappointment toward myself. In my attempt to be a hero, I never took the time to listen to what he may be going through. In our many meetings over the years, he always came across as confident and sure of himself but today, he was a student who needed someone to listen and validate him.
He talked and I listened for over two hours and he shared with me that he was the first in his family to go to college, and that he was afraid that he would let his family down if he didn’t make it to graduation, and that he had never been away from home. The part that broke my heart is when he told me, “I don’t know if I am good enough.” My instant reply was, “What if you are good enough, and what if you do make it.” He responded with, “I never looked at it that way.” As we finished our discussion, we signed him up for orientation and I gave him a hug and assured him that he would be alright.
That conversation was transformational for me because it made me change my entire approach to this work. In the words of Tina Turner “We don’t need another HERO” (I just aged myself ). Our students needed someone who could relate, support and validate their experience.
CRE and College Counseling
Often when we think about Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) we do so in relation to students’ experience in the classroom. There is not enough conversation surrounding CRE in counseling practices. I can make a case that CRE is just as important when counseling students. Our students grow up in a world that tells them:
Because they are black, their lives don’t matter
Because they are from Detroit, they are less than
Because they come from low and working class backgrounds, they can’t achieve.
When we incorporate CRE into our counseling practice we begin to create counternarratives to the aforementioned views. I suggest a more culturally responsive approach to college counseling and access, that refrains from a deficit viewpoint, and considers the contextual needs, cultural knowledge and assets our students embody to realize their college aspirations and career goals. Too often when we measure college readiness we do so based on White middle class students as the dominant measure for academic and personal standards to determine if a student can succeed in their pursuit of college and life. However, our students have gained a specific set of skills and resilience that has allowed them to survive and thrive in Detroit when it was at its worst. That same resilience can be translated to their success in college and beyond. Dr. Shaun R. Harper Provost Professor in the Rossier School of Education and Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California discusses this in his presentation “This too is Racist” When we devalue the experience and capabilities of Black students, we are committing to racist behaviors. To overcome this we have to begin telling our students that their lived cultural experience matters and is valued. In addition, we also have to help our students unpack the cultural experiences they have and translate it into tools to help them reach their personal and professional goals.
Taking a New Approach
I decided to transform the approach I would take as a counselor and take a more culturally responsive approach. I had to move away from being a hero and take on more of a restorative approach. I remember Dr. Chris Emdin calls it “ Restoration over Rescue Mission”. With that in mind I decided to approach this in three different ways.
Listen: Often our students are told to be “seen and not heard”. I have to create more opportunities for students to express their fears, concerns and experiences. We can’t help students until we understand them; we can’t understand them till we listen to them.
Student-Centered: Move away from my own personal objectives when meeting with students. Allow them the opportunity to discuss their needs, goals and plans and respond and support appropriately. Remember that each student is different and requires a unique approach. Instead of looking at their experiences as setbacks and deficiencies we must help them understand those experiences are tools that have helped them grow personally and professionally. Help them translate how those experiences can lead to their success in college, career and beyond.
Empower: Students should walk away from counseling and coaching sessions empowered to reach their goals. Many students are victims of oppression and racism and may need motivation to move forward. Before students leave high school and transition into the next stage of their life, they should have a positive self appraisal of themself (self actualization). They should believe in themselves and know that they can achieve any goal they set for themselves, despite the obstacles and experience of their past.
Love: Our students deserve to be loved. I charge every educator to move away from robotic interactions with student and instead approach students with love and their well-being
What CRE Means to Me
The thing that I had to learn as a counselor is that I had to meet the needs of the students and not my own objective. Access to a college education is not enough. TOO many of my students feel that they won’t make it in college because they feel they are not good enough or because they feel they don’t deserve it. As educators we have to provide students with the tools and self assurance to deal with the pain of fundamentally being disempowered and oppressed. When we liberate students through education we create students that transform and not conform. But we must be careful in our approach, because education in the past (in some cases currently) has been used as a tool to oppress communities of color. This is why providing students with a culturally relevant education is paramount. By infusing CRE we are able to create conscious and self-empowered individuals who use their educated voice for themselves and their community. They use that educated mind to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression and inequities to create a better world for us all.
As I was scrolling through my social media and seeing each of my former students in their college cap and gowns I ran across the student who I mentioned earlier. There he stood with his Cap and Gown on and a caption that said “I DID IT” I enthusiastically sent him a message that said “Congratulations Bro, I’m proud of you. If you need anything, call me.” Within an hour my phone rang and it was him. He said “I don’t need anything. I just had to say thank you for everything, it was a hard journey, but I did it!” With a huge smile I simply replied, “it was my pleasure brotha!”
John Johnson is the Director of Postsecondary & Alumni Affairs at University Prep Schools. He has over 12 years of experience helping students to and through college working at both the high school and collegiate levels. He is a graduate of Michigan State University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications. He also has a Masters Degree in Education & Training. He is a 2020 Detroit New Leader Council Fellow and currently a 2021 San Diego State University Equity in College Counseling Fellow. In 2020 he was awarded the Influential Educator Award by the Michigan Chronicle, and most recently the 2021 Fred Martin/Coleman A. Young Educator of the Year.
School Counselor & Teacher at Flint Southwestern Classical Academy
Our children are falling behind in their academic career to the extent that they will not graduate in four years of high school. Students do not attend class every day, do not turn in assignments, and are not always honest with their parents and teachers. It can be seen as an exacerbation of the inequities in our education system and this trend needs to be addressed and curbed before a successful post-secondary career can begin.
Students and parents need to know what life is like outside of their world. It has been a challenge because many of our older students have taken on responsibilities in their home. We have students that have secured employment that often requires them to work during the school day. Other students have become the primary caregiver for their younger siblings in order for the elementary children to be successful in online school while the parents are working. We need to provide opportunities for parents and students to visit areas outside of our city in order to develop a sense of building a life on their own.
Students need to be made aware of academic requirements of certain careers. As a secondary school counselor in an urban district in Michigan, I try to reach students on a daily basis to be sure they stay on track to graduate. I am confronted with a schedule conflict, internet access issues, faulty equipment issues, and basic connectivity issues. We continue to “forgive” these issues and do not hold the students accountable. Our direct contact hours for class only allows 30 minutes for the teacher to help the student. This does not take into account the time it takes for students to access the class and greet their classmates and teacher. In order to pursue a college education and eventually a career, students need to be accountable for their own progress.
Students/parents need to know what is available as far as funding. Our students are afforded many opportunities to pay for a college education. We need to meet parents and families where they are at – neighborhood churches, parks, or schools – so they can hear about college costs, the income potential of college graduates, and the scholarships available. In urban areas parents are focused on survival and don’t always have the opportunity to look to the future. Anything that comes with extra effort is not always attainable because of sheer lack of strength and time. Parents need to know what can be achieved without causing them extra work so they can help encourage their children to strive to be successful.
One of the things that this Covid-19 pandemic has brought to light is the fact that we are not all equal. That is especially obvious when we look at our high school students. We don’t all receive information the same way, we don’t process information the same way, we have different family obligations, we have different priorities all because we are different. We need to acknowledge these differences and address them so that our students can achieve their full potential. “It takes a village” and we all must be active participants.
She grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and earned her Bachelor’s degree at Northern Michigan University in Physical Education and Health. Her teaching career spans more that 30 years in a variety of settings from juvenile detention to a private boarding school. She also enjoys people and customer service and had worked at a professional sports and concert venue for nearly 20 years. Making people feel good about themselves and each other is her life’s mission.
Ph.D. Candidate in Higher Education, Boston College
“How did I get into this program?”
“Do I really belong in this college?”
“People here are going to find out that I’m a fraud”
Sadly, countless students carry these thoughts with them throughout the day, every day. This consistent undercurrent of self-doubt is present as they attempt to make their way through college. Students may methodically run through different reasons for why they got into their respective college (while none of these reasons have anything to do with their hard work and qualifications). It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk to peers, friends, faculty, or staff. It’s bad enough that they feel like a fraud, how can they discuss it with other people? As with battling mental health conditions, students suffer silently through imposter syndrome. Although it isn’t an official diagnosis, psychologists recognize that imposter syndrome is a “very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt”, and further, is accompanied by mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
It’s unnerving to think about how we can best support students with imposter syndrome alongside the growing list of concerns that college administrators, counselors, faculty, and staff are facing in the age of COVID-19. I hope that the lists below (adapted to outline steps that students can take) can serve as a starting point during discussions with students.
Encourage students to cultivate mentoring relationships where they can share their feelings with a mentor who can in turn help them realize that their impostor feelings are both normal and irrational.
Recognize your expertise
Don’t just look to those who are more experienced for help, however. Tutoring or working with younger students, for instance, can help students realize how far they’ve come and how much knowledge they have to impart.
Remember what you do well
“Most high achievers are pretty smart people, and many really smart people wish they were geniuses. But most of us aren’t,” she says. “We have areas where we’re quite smart and areas where we’re not so smart.” Have students write down the things they’re truly good at, and the areas that might need work. That can help them recognize where they are doing well, and where there’s legitimate room for improvement.
Realize no one is perfect
Urge students to stop focusing on perfection. “Do a task ‘well enough,'” It’s also important to take time to appreciate the fruits of their hard work. Encourage students to “develop and implement rewards for success — learn to celebrate,” she adds.
Change your thinking
People with impostor feelings have to reframe the way they think about their achievements, says Imes. She helps her clients gradually chip away at the superstitious thinking that fuels the impostor cycle. That’s best done incrementally, she says. For instance, rather than spending 10 hours on an assignment, you might cut yourself off at eight. Or you may let a friend read a draft that you haven’t yet perfectly polished. “Superstitions need to be changed very gradually because they are so strong,” she says.
Talk to someone who can help
For many people with impostor feelings, individual therapy can be extremely helpful. A psychologist or other therapist can give students tools to help them break the cycle of impostor thinking, says Imes.
Separate feelings from fact. Just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true.
Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. It’s normal to self-doubt in situations where you’re new to a setting.
Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel, but don’t take it to an extreme. Forgive yourself when mistakes happen.
Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
Right the rules. You have just as much right as everyone else to make a mistake or ask questions.
Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tape that starts playing in situations that trigger your impostor feelings. When you start a new project, think something positive like, “I may not know all of the answers, but I am smart enough to figure them out.”
Visualize success. Picture yourself successfully making a presentation or asking a question. It’s much better than the alternative of picturing disaster.
Reward yourself. Learn to celebrate your achievements.
Fake it till you make it. Now and then, we all have to fly by the seat of our pants, and courage comes from taking risks. Don’t wait until you feel confident to put yourself out there, or you may never do so.
“I believe everyone is born into the world to do something unique and distinctive.”
Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays
We echo the sentiments of Dr. Mays. Every individual has the ability to contribute something special and unique to society, particularly our students who live in urban settings. To help students maximize their abilities, certain skills and training are needed for them to optimize their potential. Therefore, an education at the secondary and postsecondary levels are an important part of the process given that the majority of individuals use their gifts and talents in their careers, fulfilling their purpose, or in their life’s calling. Moreover, we believe a postsecondary education can play a vital role in the lives of one of our most vulnerable populations from urban settings.
Attaining a postsecondary education can lead to improved career opportunities, higher salaries, and a better quality of life (Carnevale et al., 2015; Hines et al., 2020a). Former First Lady Michelle Obama created the Reach Higher Initiative (now Better Make Room) during her tenure to encourage ALL students to pursue an education or training beyond high school as former President Barack Obama’s North Star initiative centered around being a global leader in producing the higher proportion of college graduates by 2020. Currently, the Biden-Harris Administration priorities include positioning the middle class to compete in a global economy by improving the United States’ global standing in the world. A postsecondary education is vital in order for the aforementioned to be accomplished. More importantly, we must ensure students of color, women, and potential first generation students are not left out of the equation, especially those from urban school settings.
Preparing students in urban schools for postsecondary education must be innovative and transforming. We must engage them and meet them where they are rather than trying to get them to meet educators where they are. Therefore, we propose integrating hip-hop based practices with college and career readiness activities as a method to ready urban students for postsecondary opportunities.
Hip-Hop based practices in education, broadly, span decades (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002; Stovall, 2006, Alim, 2011; Ewing, 2014, Levy & Adjapong, 2020) all calling for the need to infuse culturally sustaining approaches into our school curricula. Hip-Hop based approaches are often rooted in a foundational understanding of hip-hop culture as a movement that amplified Black and Brown voices against systemic ills (Chang, 2005), using documents like mixtapes to protect the culture from erasure (Ball, 2011). Drawing from the reality that the educational system in America has historically weaponized assimilative praxis to minimize the voices of Black and Brown youth, Emdin (2016) calls for the use of hip-hop based approaches to support youth in reclaiming knowledge, culture, and history. Therefore, contemporary understandings of hip-hop in educational spaces believe in activating youth as change agents, who pull from their intra- and interpersonal network of resources to engage in the creation of multimodal hip-hop projects that simultaneously advocate for social justice and spur academic, career, and social and emotional development (Adjapong, 2019; Levy & Travis, 2020; Washington, 2018). This social justice or strengths-based hip-hop scholarship pulls from the core belief that hip-hop is resilience, leverages joy, and corrals the community to make sense of and combat external realities – the proverbial rose that grew from concrete (Shakur, 1999). As hip-hop practices have been more trendy, particularly in the realm of counseling and therapy, practitioners need to be careful to not frame Black and Brown youth solely as traumatized, broken, or in need of saving. Both education and counseling often operate from deficit models which pathologize youth experience, label concerns as internal, and then call for interventions to fix said problems. This is the antithesis of hip-hop which is a response to ecological contexts that produce feelings, and illustrates how the education system can erase culture through pulling hip-hop based practices into the matrix of assimilative praxis if its practitioners are not intentionally critical. Use of hip-hop practices in school counseling argues for a shift away from a deficit lens, seeing youth as complex, irreducible (Hannon & Vareen, 2016) and asset-rich (Bryant & Henry, 2012), human beings who can optimize their internal capacities if we as educators create the systems to do so (and abolish the ones that don’t). Therefore, Bettina Love’s (2019) call for the centering of joy and love in our education practices is essential in hip-hop because it allows educators the ability to see youth as complex individuals and foster their knowledge and capacity to actualize.
In school counseling practice, we’ve seen hip-hop leveraged as a small-group intervention (where students write, record, and perform emotionally themed music) to support students with navigating stress, anxiety, depression (Levy & Travis, 2020) and developing coping skills (Levy, 2019). In collaboration with teachers, hip-hop lyric writing interventions around science content have enabled the simultaneous acquisition of academic content and the processing of social and emotional concerns (Emdin et al., 2016). Youth have led initiatives to design physical school spaces, in the form of hip-hop studios, as potential safe-havens to express themselves authentically, process difficult emotions, and build relationships with peers (Levy & Adjapong, 2020). In each of these interventions, youth were positioned as experts of their own stories and development, who called on educators and schools to relinquish control and allow them to display their brilliance.
Some researchers (Lee & Goodnough, 2018; Lunenburg, 2010) note that schools are systems. Moreover, these systems have subsystems (e.g., community, family, and district) that impact the academic, socioemotional, college, and career outcomes of students (Bronfenbrenner, 2005). For this reason, we have adapted an integrated, systemic approach with programmatic intervention levels created by Lee and Goodnough (2018) to incorporate college and career readiness activities with hip-hop based practices to prepare students in urban school settings for postsecondary options. See table below.
College & Career Readiness Activity
Hip-Hop Based Practices
Instill the belief that college or a postsecondary pathway is a viable option; Working with students at the middle and high school levels to choose college and career ready courses for postsecondary preparation (academic/educational planning); Working with a student through career assessments to help them understand their career options, gifts, interests, and talents.
Lyric Writing as Emotive Journaling: Lyric writing can be used as an assessment, where school counselors co-select an instrumental beat with youth, and have them reflect lyrically on their strengths, areas of growth, and then goal setting. For example, students might construct a song titled “5-year plan” where they set long-term and short-term goals. This inherently narrative and aspirational verse can illuminate myriad student assets that can be used in the college and career planning process.
Discussions around navigating the postsecondary process with students from urban school settings on topics such as potential barriers, advantages-learning how to thrive in new environments, and learning to code switch.
Collaboration as Role-play is a hip-hop and school counseling tactic that engages students in the discussing, processing, and co-constructing of a song around a shared emotional theme. In the content of CCR work, students can collaborate on songs around transitions to college, financial planning, or imagining how they would navigate the slew of barriers that exist on college campuses. The act of having students engage in this work in pairs to help students preemptively develop skill to navigate future barriers, but also learn from their peers about alternative tactics.
Show movies/documentaries on postsecondary institutions (e.g., Higher Learning or School Daze) to discuss the nuances of being a student in those postsecondary settings, especially students of color, first generation, and English Language Learners.
Mixtape Making as a school counseling large-group process tasks students with highlighting a social justice theme of importance to them (retention issues on college campuses), which they then research, discuss, and plan a multimodal music project around. This might mean students, over the course of a series of classroom counseling lessons, construct multiple songs, a music video, artwork, and/or a social media campaign which helps them disseminate their findings. Germane to mixtape creation however, the research has to be strong. Meaning students need to be able to understand, and report out on retention issues, even developing personal solutions to navigate external challenges. Ancillary skill development is also apparent here including research and writing skills, public speaking, social media marketing, tangible art making skills, and many others.
Bring guest speakers who live/or from urban areas with postsecondary credentials. Also, have guest speakers who have backgrounds in hip-hop and pursued and attained a postsecondary education.
School counselors might organize a panel of speakers who have drawn from hip-hop to construct innovative careers across disciplines. Notable professionals exist across scholarly disciplines, as well the fields of business, architecture, the nonprofit sector, and service industries who have each leveraged hip-hop sensibilities to transcend music and art and find success in other fields. However, grade level hip-hop interventions should not be limited to external guest speakers or experts. Students who have engaged in rigorous and creative mixtape making can share-out their research and findings via grade-level shows. This offers each grade level the opportunity to digest the relevant mixtape content. For example, homerooms at each grade level can then process the show with guide breakout discussions that future explore the college and career process.
Create a college going culture throughout the school (signs, posters of postsecondary institutions, positive/inspirational messages); College/Vocational night; College virtual/physical tours; Partner with local colleges universities, and vocational schools for programming (Hines et al, 2020b).
Immersive College Tours can follow the creation of student-made mixtapes. School counselors deploying Hip-hop informed CCR must form partnerships with college campuses, prior to college visits, to carve out opportunities for students to share their work. For example, a school counselor might identify a Black Student Union on a college campus to collaboratively hold an open-mic event where college students and high school students can perform. Then, in addition to the normal tour activities, an experiential/immersive open-mic event can occur where students share out their rhymes about retention, transitions, and/or five-year plans, while also building community within otherwise potentially isolating campuses. Much like a post-tour reflection that artists engage in, a post-college tour reflection can be facilitated by school counselors. Here school counselors guide youth though processing their college visit, reflection on the open-mic event, but also fit. The immersive nature of the tour should increase the depth of the reflections, as students are offered a genuine opportunity to assess feelings of connectedness or lack thereof. Pictures or documents from the college-tour performances can then be displayed across the school building to create a college-going culture that looks and feels relevant to students.
District school counselor supervisors can align the college and career readiness curriculum (district wide) where all school counselors are using the same pedagogy to merge hip-hop based practices and postsecondary readiness.
Experts in hip-hop based practices can come in and facilitate a district wide training for ALL school counselors. For example, a recent study explored a hip-hop based active listening skill professional development that focused on practicing the dialogical skills needed to engage in hip-hop work individually and in groups (Levy & Lemberger-Truelove, 2021).
Meet with family to talk about shared aspirations and goals of their child’s postsecondary future.
At the family level, hip-hop based practices can be used as a tool to engage parents/guardians in dialogue around youth’s career and college aspirations. Opportunities in this arena are vast, including parent meetings where students share songs (like their five-year plan) with their parents and then discuss the content. This can happen in an individual students and family context, or as a larger listening party where a small-group of students share their entire mixtape with parents, to facilitate a larger discussion around the college and career process. Viewing family as an asset in supporting student development, opportunities may arise for parents to lead workshops (across music, art, research, business and marketing disciplines) that help elevate mixtape projects.
Facilitate college and career readiness workshops at a local community center or church.
Community engagement opportunities include: Developing a college and career festival featuring local hip-hop artists who have postsecondary backgrounds to perform and/or speak on a panel about topics on college and career readiness. Paying local community members to run after-school programming that focuses on beat making, music engineering, clothing design, graphic design, social media marketing, etc.
Our integrative approach to college and career readiness using hip-hop based practices is not exhausted and can be a foundation for helping students from urban settings with postsecondary planning. Hip-Hop can be a remedy for helping students aspire to education and training beyond high school that will not only give them optimal career outcomes, but reinforce that a culture rooted in love and asset-based can play an important role in their personal development.
Ian Levy, EdD is an Assistant Professor and Director of the School Counseling Program at Manhattan College, a New York City native, former High School counselor, and the Vice President of Counselor Educators for the New York State School Counselors association. His research interests include the examination of mental health practices in urban schools, which entails exploring the effective use of the school counselor and other school staff to support the emotional lives of young people. Most notably, Dr. Levy piloted the development, implementation, and evaluation of a Hip-Hop based counseling framework that engaged students in small-group counseling through the writing, recording and performing of emotionally-themed mixtapes. His work has been featured on various news outlets including the New York Times, and CNN, and published a variety of reputable academic journals. In 2016 he was named the New York State School Counselor of the Year. Ian is a co-editor of the HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education, Volume 2, and author of a forthcoming research monograph with Routledge titled Hip-Hop and Spoken Word Therapy in School Counseling: Developing Culturally Responsive Approaches (in May, 2021). Ian is also an emcee, and released his album – And Then It Glistens – in 2020.
Erik Hines, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems at the Florida State University as well as the coordinator of the Counselor Education Program and School Counseling Track. Dr. Hines prepares graduate students to be professional school counselors. Dr. Hines’s research agenda centers around: (a) college and career readiness for African American males; (b) parental involvement and its impact on academic achievement for students of color; and (c) improving and increasing postsecondary opportunities for first generation, low-income, and students of color (particularly African American males). Additionally, his research interests include career exploration in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for students of color. Dr. Hines has secured research funding to study the college readiness and persistence of African American males to improve their academic and career outcomes. His research has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Journal of Counselingand Development, Professional School Counseling, The High School Journal, and Urban Education. Equally important, Dr. Hines is an ACA Fellow. Dr. Hines received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park in Counselor Education with a concentration in Urban School Counseling. Finally, he has worked as a counselor in various K-12 settings and for the Ronald E McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.
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Associate Professor, Educational Leadership & Higher Education, Boston College
Sadly, high school students’ zip code and their family background are the best predictors of whether and where they begin higher education. We all want to change this disgraceful picture for the sake of our students and our society. Even before the pandemic, our usual face-to-face methods have been unsuccessful in moving the needle on equity in college access. School counselors have large caseloads and responsibilities beyond college advising. Intensive out-of-school college access programs are expensive and reach relatively few students. Even these in-person connections largely disappeared for the pandemic era graduating classes of 2020 and 2021. Now and in the future, we need to find affordable ways to reach hundreds of thousands of college-intending students with effective application and financial aid assistance.
Enter text message college advising. Today’s youth live on their phones. According to the Pew Foundation, 95% of U.S. teenagers own a cell phone. About half say they are on their phone “almost constantly.” Delivering advising fully or partly through cell phone text messages has the promise of reaching students with timely, individualized, two-way communications. Text message college advising campaigns have begun to emerge over the past decade and the first results from these large-scale interventions are just beginning to be published.
The founders of College Counseling Now studied one of the most ambitious text message interventions to date: Digital Messaging to Improve College Success—DIMES. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, DIMES involved nearly 75,000 students from over 700 high-poverty high schools across 15 states. DIMES was intended to influence college application behavior and enrollment outcomes as measured by the difference between treatment and control groups at the end of the trial. Like other recently reported trials, overall results were disappointing. We set out to understand why by analyzing the content of the advising: the 400,000 text messages that students sent to their advisors over the 15 months of DIMES. What kinds of topics do students raise with advisors through text message? Is it possible for students to establish relationships with advisors via text message? Are student needs and concerns sufficiently similar in content and timing that advising could be automated? How do DIMES student participants experience this mode of advising?
We learned a lot—about how text message advising works and about why and when it does not. Our analysis of the messages showed what advisors might mistakenly assume that students know and understand. It showed what students need, and when they need it. You can read about our findings and recommendations in the Journal of College Access and see a video of our recent presentation on text message advising at the National School Counseling Leadership Conference.
Text message advising is not yet the great equalizer we’ve all been seeking. Not yet. It is too soon to abandon the promise of this wide reaching, cost-effective strategy, however. My co-researchers and I will share the many important lessons from DIMES in future blogs. We call on others to join the College Counseling Now conversation about what we are all learning about effective text message advising.
Erik M. Hines, Ph.D. and Edward C. Fletcher Jr., Ph.D.
Far too often, the narrative around Black males in the P-16 educational pipeline has been from a deficit oriented perspective. Specifically, when it comes to academic, college, and career preparation, it is a bleak outlook due to barriers and obstacles associated with the career and life outcomes of Black males. Although information is available through research literature and practice, the conversation is rarely highlighted about what is working to improve the academic and career trajectories of Black males. Moreover, we must combat the anti-Black racism that contributes to Black males being adultified and treated as less than human. Therefore, we will highlight how a P-16 learning community approach can be a safety net in supporting Black males. In the following paragraphs, we discuss our experiences and findings of research and work with Black males through a career academy model and a residential learning community focused on college retention and graduation. We see the aforementioned programs serving as learning communities for Black males. Lastly, we will conclude with recommendations for supporting Black males from high school to postsecondary completion through a learning community approach.
Career Academies as Learning Communities
At the high school level, career academies have emerged as a vehicle in helping create STEM career pathways for Black male students. These high school career academies provide students with opportunities to explore STEM related (e.g., Engineering, Information Technology) interests through a career-themed curricula that bridges STEM content with college preparatory and accelerated coursework. Thus, career academies have been identified as meeting the college and career readiness needs of Black male students. To that end, the career academy model can help open doors for Black male high school students in their pursuit of pursuing STEM majors at colleges and universities.
One of the signature features of career academies is its focus on small learning communities that provide Black males with an increased level of interpersonal supports. In many ways, the career academy model operates as a college/university. Students are placed in cohorts where they participate in the same classes with a set of their peers with similar career interests (like a major in college), and are taught by a set of core academic and career-themed teachers. This small learning community enables students to be emotionally engaged in their schools and creates a positive culture of supports from a variety of school stakeholders (e.g., peers, school counselors, teachers, business/industry and postsecondary partners). Studies have demonstrated that Black males benefit from participation in career academies as it promotes hands-on learning, a sense of community and belonging, and meaningful engagement in school (which oftentimes students see as void of relevancy). Academy students also report feelings of safety, less experiences with bullying, and beliefs that they can be themselves.
We also know that career academies with increased wraparound supports for Black male students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds promote higher levels of student engagement. These supports come in the form of academic, health, social-emotional, and community/family engagement. Schools have fostered relationships with their local community in the form of advisory boards to offer students food, clothing, health and mental health support, and GED and job opportunities for families. It is essential to understand that wraparound services help to meet the basic needs of students so that they can focus and engage in their academics. It is also important that these supports are viewed from a healing centered mindset rather than a deficit perspective.
Postsecondary Learning Communities
At institutions of higher education (i.e., universities, vocational schools, etc.), a learning community for Black males can serve as a space for acclimating to the institution, assistance with connecting them to important stakeholders across campus, teaching soft skills to be successful in course work and in to their future career(s), and to receive guidance and mentorship from another Black male or an individual who is culturally responsive leading the initiative. Learning communities help Black men transition to and thrive within the institution in a way that provides a safety net while helping them manage the responsibilities of being autonomous and independent. In other words, the learning community can help Black men understand their purpose of being at the institution while providing them with the resources to be successful. Research has shown that learning communities improve the retention and graduation rates for Black males, especially when students are given the right support.
Some of these resources include academic supplements such as tutoring with heavy emphasis on introductory math and science courses, navigating the politics of postsecondary institutions, and knowing where and how to utilize campus resources (e.g., the office of financial aid, university counseling center, and career center). Moreover, young men can receive career development in their first and second year to help them identify a major they are committed to as to decrease the amount of time to the baccalaureate degree which in turn translates into financial benefits such as saving money. Also, access to campus faculty for creating relationships will help Black males be comfortable with interacting with them as well as giving them the comfort level to advocate for themselves. In my (Hines) experience, some young men may not speak up for themselves when needed due to power dynamics or not knowing how to communicate with their professor. Emphatically, this is where the faculty director can teach skills in communication and advocacy. Further, Black men can build bonds to produce a brotherhood that can transcend their time in college. These young men can discuss shared experiences in being Black, male, and students and provide social and cultural capital for each other to successfully navigate their college careers.
Although the cliche of attending a postsecondary institution is, “where you go to find yourself”, we would argue these young men never lost themselves, but are in a space to discover how to build and expand upon the gifts and talents they already possess and merge it with purpose and a major/career. Therefore, we offer several recommendations to fostering a safety net for Black boys and men centering excellence, greatness, and purpose through a learning community approach:
Build confidence in Black males by promoting academic achievement; therefore the focus should be obtaining resources for Black males to be successful in their courses at both the P-12 and postsecondary levels. Specifically, provide intensive academic support in the subjects of Math and Science since they are gateway courses for STEM majors.
Engage students in STEM related coursework in high school coupled with accelerated programs (e.g., AP, dual enrollment) will help to prepare them for majoring in STEM in colleges and universities as well as benefit them financially by lessening the costs of studying at the postsecondary education level.
Exposure to male mentors who are professionals and have access to career and internship opportunities to provide social and economic capital to Black males.
School counselors and faculty with counseling backgrounds are in great positions to lead learning communities as they can provide intrusive counseling and utilize skills to elicit information from Black male students to create a plan of action for their success.
Develop partnerships with the school counselor, social worker or university counseling center to ensure Black males get the mental health services needed as stress and trauma can impact the mental and physical well being as well as their academics.
Provide wraparound services for Black male students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Ensure that schools have academic, health, social-emotional, and community/family engagement. District and school administrators can form relationships with their local community to offer students food, clothing, health and mental health support, and GED and job opportunities for families.
Create advisory boards within high schools to seek engagement and supports from business and industry, postsecondary education, and various community members. These critical stakeholders can provide a wealth of resources for students, including funding, guest speaking, work-based learning activities, and other social and cultural capital supports. Utilize advisory boards to provide targeted and tailored supports (e.g., academic supports with ACT/SAT, clubs/student/professional organizations, mentoring programs) for Black males in particular.
Create small learning communities in high school by putting students in cohorts with other learners who share career interests. Ensure that scheduling allows students to participate in the same classes throughout their high school experience, and that they have the same set of teachers (both core academic and career-themed) during their schooling.
Use data to advocate for the rationale of developing a learning community as well as the resources needed for it to thrive.
Create opportunities for Black males to engage in culturally relevant study abroad programs for global educational experiences.
Create opportunities for exposure to graduate school, professional school (e.g., law, medical, etc.) as well as advanced training that broaden pathways to senior leadership positions and increase the number of Black males that are traditionally underrepresented in the aforementioned spaces.
The narrative of the learning community must be strengths-based and asset focus rather than a deficit approach.
Learning communities for Black males can be a space where they can develop their brilliance and greatness through academic preparation, professional development, leadership skills, engaging in undergraduate research opportunities, internships, apprenticeships, and career opportunities. Learning communities can be as formal as a career academy or as informal as a group of Black males being led by faculty members or school personnel. The faculty director’s role is to cultivate these young men by maximizing their potential and creating the safety net where they can be their authentic selves and know that the ethic of care is present at their respective institutions. Finally, we have provided references to guide individuals who are interested in this work.
Cintron, D., Hines, E.M., Singleton, II, P., & Golden, M.N. (2020). Improving retention and gpas of Black males at pwi: An LLC approach. Journal of African American Males in Education, 11(1), 37-57.
Fletcher, E., & Cox, E. (2012). Exploring the meaning African American students ascribe to their participation in high school career academies and the challenges they experience. The High School Journal,96(1), 4-19. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23275421
Fletcher, E, Dumford, A.D., Hernandez-Gantes, V.M. & Minar, N. (2020) Examining the engagement of career academy and comprehensive high school students in the United States, The Journal of Educational Research, 113(4), 247-261, DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2020.1787314
Fletcher, E., Warren, N. & Hernandez-Gantes, V.M. (2019) The high school academy as a laboratory of equity, inclusion, and safety, Computer Science Education, 29(4), 382-406, DOI: 10.1080/08993408.2019.1616457
Hines, E.M., Harris, P.C., Mayes, R.D., & Moore, III, J.L. (2020). I think of college as setting a good foundation for my future: Black males navigating the college decision making process. Journal for Multicultural Education, 14(2) 129-147. https://doi.org/10.1108/JME-09-2019-0064
Hines, E.M., Hines, M. R., Moore, J.L. III., Steen, S, Singleton, II, P., Cintron, D., Traverso, K,Golden, M. N., Wathen, B., & Henderson, J.A. (2020). Preparing African American males for college: A group counseling approach. TheJournal for Specialists in Group Work, 45(2), 129-145. https://doi.org/10.1080/01933922.2020.1740846.
Edward C. Fletcher Jr., Ph.D. is an Education and Human Ecology (EHE) Distinguished Associate Professor of Workforce Development and Education in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. He serves as Senior Faculty Fellow for the Center on Education and Training for Employment and Co-Editor for the Journal of Career and Technical Education. Dr. Fletcher has over 70 publications and obtained over $4.5 million in federal funding. His research focuses on the role of career academies in promoting student engagement as well as college and career readiness, particularly for diverse learners. Dr. Fletcher’s email address is email@example.com.
Erik M. Hines, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems at the Florida State University as well as the coordinator of the Counselor Education Program and School Counseling Track. Dr. Hines prepares graduate students to be professional school counselors. Dr. Hines’s research agenda centers around: (a) college and career readiness for African American males; (b) parental involvement and its impact on academic achievement for students of color; and (c) improving and increasing postsecondary opportunities for first generation, low-income, and students of color (particularly African American males). Additionally, his research interests include career exploration in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for students of color. Dr. Hines has secured research funding to study the college readiness and persistence of African American males to improve their academic and career outcomes. Further, Dr. Hines has worked on several grants aimed at increasing awareness of STEM careers for students of color and rural students. He has over 30 publications and secured over $6,000,000.00 in extramural and internal funding. His research has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Journal of Counselingand Development, Professional School Counseling, The High School Journal, and Urban Education. Dr. Hines’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
A School Counselor and AVID Coordinator share Reach Higher Stories from Riverside, CA, and all over the nation!
In 2018, my friend, Dan, and I started a podcast called Reach Higher Riverside for educators and school counselors. It started with a conversation as we were discussing podcasts and how I wished there were a podcast about the Reach Higher Initiative. Dan then said, “Why don’t we start one?” At first, I thought no way, but he somehow convinced me to start a podcast and so it began! We share Reach Higher stories from local, state, and national leaders across the nation. This past year we taped 15 episodes with listeners from 37 different countries! I have had the honor to interview some of the most amazing people and so many educational heroes.
What is the Reach Higher Initiative?
Reach Higher, an initiative launched by former First Lady, Michelle Obama in 2014, is designed to inspire a college-going culture, ultimately leading to an increase in postsecondary access and success for our nation’s students. With a focus on first-generation and low income youth the initiative is centered around activating support systems to help students gain access to the tools and opportunities they need to “reach higher” and obtain a postsecondary degree whether at a traditional four-year college, a two-year community college, or through an industry-recognized training program. Feel free to check out our podcast on your favorite Podcast platform! You can find information on our website here: https://bit.ly/ReachHigherRiverside
Executive Director, Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment, San Diego State University & Doctoral Candidate, Boston College, Higher Education
Never has it been more evident that our postsecondary pipeline and advising systems need a major overhaul. Students and adults have long noted that the support they desire falls woefully short, leaving too many without the guidance they deserve and need. School counselors are licensed, trained and prepared to serve all students, yet they are consistently bereft of the resources necessary to meet the competing demands of their job. Magnified by an all consuming pandemic with emerging and competing areas of need (COVID-19, mental health, racial injustice and postsecondary planning), we can no longer continue to ignore this shortfall without being accomplices in maintaining this system that perpetuates inequitable postsecondary opportunities.
The past year has amplified the isolation so many of us have felt. None more so than graduate students who struggle under normal conditions to remain connected due to the nature of their programs and excessive time demands.
Success at the doctoral level isn’t easy to come by with roughly half of students leaving their programs before graduation. Minoritized doctoral students are especially vulnerable. Managing several expectations and projects simultaneously is the norm we operate within, often without the institutional support we are in dire need of. In light of the events of this last year, I ask myself what will happen to us now and in the future, given that we are and have been overlooked in higher education? The seemingly endless bad news on so many different fronts has been crippling to say the least. The small moments I used to share with my peers (of color) on campus, which notably included processing hard realities seems so far away. I have noticed more and more instances where I struggle to catch my breath due to the sheer volume of all that has been transpiring. I have been trying to push myself forward while also coming to grips with a political system and nation that has continued to fall apart. I’ve lied awake worrying simultaneously about protecting my aging parents from COVID-19 and how I will get enough participants for my dissertation study. We matter and we need support.
Venus Israni, Doctoral Candidate, Boston College, Higher Education
K-12 students face similar concerns, attempting virtual, face-to-face and hybrid formats of school while also providing day care for younger siblings whose parents are working at essential jobs. School counselors are meeting with heartbroken students whose loved ones have contracted COVID-19 and, in some cases, passed on. Counselors are listening to the concerns of racially marginalized and isolated students who are just plain “done with everything” and have checked out. They are addressing the mental health concerns of parents and staff while doing everything in their power to ensure that the individualized needs of every student on their caseload are met. They are overseeing food distribution, helping with homelessness and collaborating with community partners to address an increasing set of needs. While the ground underneath them seems to shift every five minutes, school counselors are working with students who face increased academic struggles in the face of this new model of learning.
Under any other circumstances, each area of need would require 100% of a school counselor’s time, but that is not possible given the urgency and serious challenges that students and families are facing. All of these students’ needs must be addressed. We cannot possibly recover from the damage this pandemic has inflicted without a thoughtfully designed plan to revise our comprehensive advising structures and policies.
Students and parents need responsive and informed guidance that is adaptable to the daily disruptions and competing challenges from this pandemic. They need College Counseling Now.
College Counseling Now Campaign
The College Counseling Now campaign will address the four intersecting pandemics and more specifically, respond to what many are referring to as COVID-19 melt, where academically-qualified students are choosing not to attend or return to college. We will look at nontraditional pathways that connect students to real opportunities for high-wage, high demand jobs.
Recognizing that there are many people who work towards helping students navigate their post high school options, the #CollegeCounselingNow campaign will engage and bring together all partners (students, parents, guardians, K-12 educators, higher ed. partners, community based organizations, school counselors, graduate students, counselor educators and researchers) to respond to the clarion call for creative, decisive, and equity focused solutions.