Each year, more than 200,000 AmeriCorps service members pledge a year of service at nonprofit organizations across the country. In exchange for a living allowance, education award, and additional benefits, full-time AmeriCorps members devote 1,700 service hours to organizations tackling some of the most pervasive systemic problems. At College Possible, AmeriCorps service members assist as near-peer college access and success coaches, helping over 25,000 students annually overcome the most pressing challenges to earning a college degree.
Let’s take a look at three things College Possible AmeriCorps service members do every day to help support students on their journey to and through college.
Support through major college admissions milestones
AmeriCorps service members assigned as college access coaches have the distinct role of helping high school juniors and seniors achieve their dream of getting into their best-fit college. Typically, coaches are stationed inside their designated schools Monday through Thursday. Here, they’ll provide support to students navigating key college milestones: college selection, test prep, applications, and financial aid.
Additionally, college access coaches help students write and edit their college essays – one of the most daunting tasks of college applications. Once students gain admission into a college, coaches will assist them in course selection and class registration. These are all steps that can be easily overlooked during the summer months between high school graduation and the start of college.
“There are so many deadlines incoming college students have to keep track of: When to register for classes, when orientation is taking place or when is move-in day,” says Lyndsey, a college success coach. “Helping students find those dates helps them get to that finish line of starting college.”
Strengthen communities through near-peer mentorship
One of the most important characteristics of a coach is their near-peer relatability. Many coaches identify as first-generation college graduates themselves, and most come from similar communities of the students they serve. They are also close in age to their student cohort, generally just a few years out of college.
When asked how coaches have impacted their lives, students often cite the importance of having someone to lean on. “My coaches always checked on me and gave me a sense of stability,” shares Kheyana, a College Possible student at Penn State Harrisburg. “I knew that I had someone outside of my friends and family to lean on when needed.”
Coaches also strengthen their communities by participating in AmeriCorps’ national day of service. Every Martin Luther King Jr. Day, all AmeriCorps service members participate in a day of volunteerism together. Some paint murals, helping to bring beauty to high schools. Others participate in river or forest cleanups. “College Possible has pushed me to go out and volunteer more,” shares Melissa, an Omaha South High School student. “I would typically keep to myself and go straight to school and the Boys & Girls Club, but because I had coaches from College Possible, I volunteered.”
Connect individuals to invaluable resources
One common aspect of a College Possible coach’s job is connecting students to existing resources. This can be as simple as helping students overcome the fear of meeting their professor during office hours, or assisting students in finding study groups that fit their specific needs and schedules. It can also mean helping students connect with campus financial aid professionals. “The best part of College Possible is knowing that my coach, Abbie, is always here for me,” says Kailey, a student at College of Saint Mary. “She is a consistent, friendly face ready to help and connect me to resources that will help me succeed.”
Ensuring completion of the FAFSA and scholarship applications are often the difference between students being able to afford college. College Possible coaches are specially trained to help students navigate complex college systems and confusing recurring processes, such as financial aid. “The higher education system was not made for first-generation, working class students of color. Its oppressive roots still show up every single day in our students’ lives,” says Lori, a College Possible college success coach. “Whether it be being singled out by professors to speak on behalf of whole racial groups, or even the elitist vocabulary used in FAFSA applications, we are the bridge to help students from underserved backgrounds persist to graduation.”
AmeriCorps service members play an important role in the success of College Possible programming. From being a trusted near-peer confidant to helping students access essential resources, coaches are uniquely valuable to the students they serve. If you’d like to help students reach their dreams of earning a college degree, browse our open coach positions, or join our email list to learn about upcoming information sessions.