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Graduate feature: Four College Possible graduates give back

AmeriCorps Graduates

Data has shown that College Possible graduates are committed and engaged citizens within their communities. Service to one’s community can look a variety of ways, and this year four College Possible Omaha graduates are completing a year of service through AmeriCorps as coaches for the organization. Ali Dassner, Emilio Pino, Jenni Gutierrez, and Marthe Passoli are all using their skills to serve and support students in the Omaha area for the 2021-22 school year.

While the reasons for serving are different for each, the four graduates believe their time in the College Possible program has shaped their career trajectory.

I knew I wanted to complete a year of service from the time I was in the program. I was helped a lot by College Possible and wanted to give back to it if I ever had the opportunity,” said Ali Dassner.

Ali graduated from Westside High School before attending Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was an English literature and philosophy double major. Since middle school, Ali knew college was something she needed in her life. So, when she was introduced to College Possible her sophomore year of high school in a sociology class, she applied. She said she knew she was going to college but didn’t know the first thing about preparing for it.

After graduating from Coe College, Ali decided to take a gap year to assess next steps, and she never forgot her desire to give back to College Possible. She is now serving as a junior high school coach.

Emilio is serving as a college coach at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, which is where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in music entrepreneurship. He attended Papillion-La Vista Senior High School, where he was introduced to College Possible as a junior. During his senior year of high school, Emilio joined the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Summer Scholars program, which gave him the confidence to further his education.

During college, Emilio was originally a music education major. He ultimately decided on switching because music entrepreneurship was a better fit. However, he said that education is something he’s passionate about, which led him to completing a year of service with College Possible Omaha.

I wanted to complete a year of service because College Possible has always been a great organization for education and giving back to the community, which is a career field I’ve been wanting to explore for a few months now,” he said.

Much like Emilio, Jenni is passionate about being an educator and decided to serve to decide if it’s the right path for her. She attended Omaha South High Magnet School before moving onto Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. When first attending college, she was set on becoming a math teacher, but she realized it wasn’t for her after a semester. She switched majors to human services and political science but knew she wanted to be an educator.

She was initially introduced to College Possible by getting invited to an informational session about the program. She said she remembers a lot of the discussion resonating with her as a first-generation student from a low-income background. Once she applied and was accepted, she was beyond excited about the program.

My parents are immigrants from Mexico, and they always stressed how important education was for the longest time, but their focus was a high school degree. It finally clicked in my sophomore or junior year that I might as well get a college degree too, because why stop at high school?” she said.

Jenni is now serving as a senior high school coach at Omaha South High Magnet School, her alma mater. She hopes to assist students who have similar experiences with their college application process and make it as simple for students as her College Possible coach did for her.

Marthe was inspired to complete a year of service by her College Possible coach, who encouraged Marthe to serve. This is Marthe’s second year as a part of the program, and this year she is serving as a tech-connected college coach.

She attended Ralston High School before attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha to get a degree in sociology. During her sophomore year of high school, she applied to the program and said her coaches helped her tremendously through the entire college process.

I feel honored to be serving another year as a College Possible graduate. I wasn’t sure serving students was something I’d be able to do, but I am so glad I have this opportunity,” she said.

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