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College Students and Coaches Work Creatively to Combat Challenges

College Possible Oregon’s college success program is supporting 951 students on their journey to graduation, but this year has come with new challenges.

“Much of our work has changed from being mostly academic and social, to providing COVID-19 relief resources and supporting students through the massive changes they’re experiencing,” said college coach Haley Gomez. “For us coaches, our means of communication have turned completely virtual, which makes it more difficult to establish the personal connections with our students that we aim for.”

Although remote student-coach interactions allow individuals to work safely, many coaches and students wish they could connect in person.

“I wish I could meet my students in real life and not just over the phone, but I am hopeful I will get that opportunity someday,” said college coach Rae Diamond.

Along with the new virtual work environment, college coaches are adapting content to meet students’ ever-changing needs. Coaches have added more structure in meetings with students to maximize content coverage, sent out monthly newsletters to provide community and institutional resources, and doubled-down on supporting students’ financial needs.

“We help students when they are experiencing financial hardships by providing persistence and emergency aid,” said college program coordinator Deysi Cisneros Maciel. “All of our enrolled students can apply for emergency assistance to help pay for rent, overdue bills or when they are experiencing food insecurity.”

However, even with the guidance and resources college coaches are providing, students are reconsidering their college graduation timelines.

“Many of our students have or are considering stopping out of school for winter or spring term,” said Cisneros Maciel. “Especially students who learn better in person or those who feel like they are not getting the education they deserve. We also support unenrolled students who are in the process of reenrolling. Many of these students want to wait until the pandemic is over to reenroll. We do not know when this will be over so coaches are having a lot more difficult conversations this year.”

These difficult conversations about graduation deadlines have been a topic of discussion throughout the organization. College Possible President Craig Robinson discussed the importance of education persistence during the pandemic in the recent Hechinger Report op-ed piece “Now is Not The Time to Put College Plans on Hold.” The difficult conversations college coaches are having tend to reflect the exact phenomena Robinson is discussing.

Despite these unprecedented circumstances and difficult conversations, coaches continue to be inspired by College Possible students.

“Being able to be a part of a student’s academic and social life during 2020 has given me many moments of inspiration,” said Gomez. “Our students are managing a full course load, work, extracurriculars, internships, work, all while experiencing the incredibly heavy effects of a global pandemic. Even with all these events going on, they still are able to find the joy in what they do as well as be some of the funniest people I know.”

College Possible’s college success program works with undergraduate students on their journey to graduation. Coaches help students with tasks including college transition, major and career exploration, class registration, securing financial aid/scholarships and self-advocacy. The college success program works with students from their first year of college until they receive their undergraduate diploma. To learn more, visit College Possible – Our Model.

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