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Helping High School Students Across Minnesota Navigate College Applications

College Possible Navigate student Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn, College Possible Navigate student

Kaitlyn was in a rough spot. The Eveleth-Gilbert High School senior had contracted mononucleosis and missed months of school. But, thanks to her College Possible Navigate coach, she received the support she needed to help her with the college process outside of school, keeping her on track with applications.

“I needed help with picking up the pieces and putting them together with the correct steps to apply to college,” explained Kaitlyn. “It helped having a College Possible [coach] help me with the extra steps I couldn’t be there for in school.”

College Possible Minnesota’s Navigate program has been virtually serving students like Kaitlyn across the state since 2015. In the initial year of programming, coaches served 125 students from low-income backgrounds at 15 partner high schools. Since then, Navigate has grown to over 45 high school partnerships and coaches are serving nearly 500 students this year.

“We are entering our sixth program year and I feel most proud of our year-by-year growth,” said Navigate Program Manager Shannon Oldenburg. “For five years in a row, we have improved our student outcomes each year.”

COVID-19 hasn’t presented many additional challenges for Navigate programming since it was designed to be delivered remotely. In fact, the Navigate program’s experience delivering college access curriculum virtually has been vital to College Possible’s ability to serve students who are no longer able to meet with their coaches in-person due to the pandemic.

“We have been able to share our work across sites with our peers when we needed to pivot all of our programing to virtual,” explained Oldenburg.

One difference brought on by COVID-19 is that students across the state are all experiencing different models of school — in-person, all virtual and hybrid learning — and, as a result, are experiencing new stressors when it comes to academics, college access and test prep.

“We see that coaches are working with students who are under a lot more stress than in previous years,” said Oldenburg. “As a program, we have needed to bolster our resources to support coaches as they support students through all of these complexities.”

Through focusing on student outcomes and impact, Navigate has continued to make adjustments to curriculum and delivery. The result is that more students have earned admissions to college each year, while the program has simultaneously increased the amount of students served.

“It has been energizing to widen our reach across the state of MN the past three years,” said Oldenburg. “As we look to what is next, we are hoping to spend time this winter engaging in long-term strategy and goals for this next phase of Navigate programming.”

“College Possible is really helpful,” said Kaitlyn, “Whoever your coach is, they will try to get you the resources you need. I would recommend it to all the high school kids at Eveleth.”

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