Dr. Jeffrey Wagner is the principal of Bellevue East High School, which is one of College Possible Omaha’s nine partner schools. Continue reading to hear about his experiences working with College Possible in his school and the impact he has seen on the students of Bellevue East.
I first became aware of College Possible when I was working for another school district. I saw its benefit for the students at that time, and when I accepted a principal position in another district, it was a program I wanted our students to have access to. Working to ensure opportunities for students who didn’t think college was possible, to help students be ready for college, not just college bound, and to remove some of the obstacles to college — these are things every student deserves. We were fortunate to bring College Possible to Bellevue East High School in 2017 and it has been going strong ever since.
There is never a shortage of students who want to be part of College Possible. Students have to meet specific criteria, apply to the program, and be accepted. We started with one coach and a group of 20 senior students the first year but were able to grow that to two coaches and more than 40 students the next year. We currently have 40 juniors and seniors in the program. College Possible helps our students navigate the path to college, allows them to explore college choices and possibilities, provides guidance and direction with a group of similar and like-minded peers, prepares them for the ACT and helps build their confidence.
I believe that having young coaches, fresh from navigating their own college path, is a key component of College Possible. Our high school students can relate to the coaches, believe in the coaches and know they have already walked on the path our students are starting. The consistent approach, the positive reinforcement and the fact that College Possible is with our students from high school through college, make it a valuable resource for our students.
There are benefits for the coaches, as well. One of the first College Possible coaches we had at Bellevue East, Sarah Birnbaum, completed her teaching degree and is now teaching chemistry at Bellevue East. The connections we made with Sarah and getting to know her as she worked with our students, helped shape that opportunity and we are proud to have her on our staff.
There are never enough resources, supports, or programs to serve all of our students. There are many avenues a student can choose after high school and going to college is a popular choice. For some of our students, college seems out of reach, or they don’t know how to get started to have someone help them along the way. College Possible has worked with more than a hundred of our seniors since joining Bellevue East, with 84% of those seniors attending college. I can’t thank College Possible enough for the support and resources it provides to help some of our students make college a reality.