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Navigating unknowns and uncertainties

High school coaches find a new way to serve, providing consistency and support for students through virtual sessions

It’s been more than a month since the College Possible high school program team implemented a new way of serving students.

Area high schools began closing mid-March, but College Possible never stopped serving. Within days, coaches had transitioned to using programs like Zoom or Ring Central for group sessions as well as phone and email for individual sessions.

“We transitioned quickly for the virtual world. It was definitely a shock for all our coaches, but that didn’t slow them down as far as student support,” said Carly Wacker, College Possible High School Program Manager.

College Possible serve more than 700 high school juniors and seniors in the Omaha metro at 10 partner high schools.

Although, access to technology is a challenge for some students in the metro, Omaha North High Magnet School Senior Coach Emily McGuire said students at have a laptop provided by the high school.

“My students have adjusted well to how I am teaching them curriculum. They are such a resilient group, and they’re ability to be positive and humorous no matter what is going on is amazing,” Emily said. “This experience has helped me hold students more accountable to complete tasks on their own and effectively manage their own time. These are both great skills to practice before attending college.”

What high school students are working on this spring

Juniors receive support with ACT preparation and work with their coach on registering for the June ACT exam, learning ow to write resumes, and researching their individual, top five best fit colleges.

Seniors receive support with financial aid, are committing to college, and work with their coach on completing beginning steps of the college enrollment process.

“My service is much more individualized now. I can be more individualistic and thorough with my answers. This is really helpful considering the enrollment process is different for all my students,” Emily said.

Coaches help ensure a student has everything he or she needs to accomplish these tasks. There are verification steps to receive a financial package, immunization records to collect, and transcripts.

“A lot of these steps were challenging before Covid-19, and now, those tasks have been upended and communication hasn’t been presented. We’re trying to help them navigate that,” Carly said.

Additionally, the pandemic has brought students a loss of normalcy.

College Possible Program Director Katie Cunningham said not only are students missing key high school milestones, such as prom, school activities, and graduation, they’re not able to see their friends, teachers, and coaches in-person.

“They’re also faced with new challenges brought by distance learning as schools work incredibly hard to adjust. Many students are experiencing a loss of family income and have taken on new jobs as essential workers, some balancing full time jobs at grocery stores to support their family’s immediate needs,” said Katie.

Successful results from high school program this year

Results show the dedication and innovation the program team and coaches have put in to high school program this year.

One-hundred percent of high school seniors have applied to college, 96% of seniors applied to 3 or more universities and colleges, and 99.4% of high school seniors have been accepted to a four-year university or college. That’s 321 out of 323 seniors.

To help stay connected this spring, coaches are also getting creative with communications to students, using apps like Tik Tok.

“The team of coaches at College Possible Omaha are innovative and positive. It is amazing how much they all help me serve my students and continue to remind how important it is,” said Emily.

Many high school cohorts saw an increase in attendance since moving to online session, Carly said, an unexpected, but welcomed success.

Participation is up, in part, because online session is a new experience, and students are more accessible throughout the day. They are less busy now than usual and have more time to check-in.

“The great thing about our program is that it can be done online. I’m impressed with how our coaches have done, have they’ve transitioned into the virtual world,” Carly said. “They are doing a great job.”

Many unknowns and uncertainties remain this spring, but College Possible provides consistency and support.

“We are a liaison to community resources, social connection, and future planning during a time when the future seems scary and impossible,” said Katie. “Students still have goals and dreams during a pandemic, and College Possible is here to help students balance their immediate and basic needs with their long-term goal of college graduation.”

College Possible serves at partner high schools: Omaha North High Magnet School, Omaha South High Magnet School, Omaha Benson High School, Omaha Northwest High School, Ralston High School, Westside High School, Millard South High School, Bellevue East High School, Papillion La Vista High School and Papillion La Vista South High School.

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