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Meet Texas’ October AmeriCorps coach superstars

Each month College Forward (now College Possible Texas) recognizes the contributions of amazing coaches who are working tirelessly to improve college access and completion across Texas. Meet three of our coaches below!

Carolyn Widen
Carolyn Widen

College Access Coach – Austin
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
College: University of Texas-Austin

Fun Fact: Carolyn interned for Communities in Schools during her final year at UT, working with refugee high school students. An article she wrote was featured in the Interfaith Action of Central Texas’s newsletter last year!

Carolyn’s Impact: Carolyn exemplifies every one of College Possible’s core values – most importantly, in her dedication to each of her students. She is steadfast in her desire to learn more about how to best serve students, becoming more knowledgeable about college access and systemic education issues that affect the students she works with. Using her social work background and case management skills, she provides individualized coaching and encouragement for her high school students. Thank you, Carolyn!

Throughout college I studied various social justice issues, and education seems to be one of the main ways that people, families, and generations are able to get out of the cycle of poverty. Knowledge really is Power! I want to make sure my students have many options available to them.”


Derek Hanson
College Completion Coach – Austin

Hometown: Oskaloosa, KS
College: University of Kansas

Fun Fact:
 Derek once ran across the parking lot of a Dollar General to help snag a stranger’s runaway “Get Well Soon” balloon, saving the day. What a hero!

Derek’s Impact: Derek is an exceptional coach who truly goes above and beyond in all of his work with students. It is evident at campus visits that he has cultivated incredible relationships with his students at Texas State, and he has encouraged his students to utilize all of the resources available to them at their respective universities. He even coached one of his freshman students through solidifying an internship at the Texas State Capitol! His intelligence, passion, and excellent sense of humor make him a valuable asset to the team – thanks, Derek!

“Last year, as a high school teacher, I realized that our education system is sending many of our students off to college without adequate academic skills and without a firm sense of belonging. I chose College Forward to have a chance to work one-on-one with students most in need of these assets, to help them persist through the challenges they will meet in college, all the way to graduation. I hope to help my students gain academic skills, like strong, persuasive writing; I want my freshmen to begin to grasp how to thrive in college, so they need less of my help as they become better advocates for themselves; I want my students to succeed in their classes and persevere through struggles; and I hope to provide positive, timely wisdom in their lives.”


Charlene Warnock
College Completion Coach – Austin
Hometown: Asheville, NC
College: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Fun Facts: Charlene was born in North Carolina and grew up in several states before returning to NC for college; because of this, she has perfected and enjoys using many regional accents. Even more impressive, she can carry conversations in Chinese AND French.

Charlene’s Impact: Charlene is both coach and cheerleader, working diligently to build meaningful relationships with the students she serves and the coaches and staff members with whom she works. Her inquisitive disposition and passion drive her to ‘obsess about the problem’ and find effective solutions—her hard work on the CoPilot Committee has already helped the team improve its data-tracking. Her cheerful and positive attitude create a great environment, and we are lucky to have her on the team! Thanks, Charlene!

“I enjoy talking with my students and listening to their stories. I truly believe in College Possible’s mission and I love working with others who have the same passion for this work!”

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