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Welcome Asha Bhaga, College Possible Washington’s new senior director of development

Please join us in welcoming Asha Bhaga to the Washington team. Bhaga has been working in development in the Puget Sound region for many years and brings a wealth of knowledge in supporting BIPOC communities, a focus on community-centric fundraising, and experience with foundations and individual donors. Here’s a little more about her:

Why College Possible and why now?
As a first-generation college graduate, I understand the challenges students face transitioning from high school to college completion. My undergraduate journey took 10 years to complete. Not understanding the financial options available, I only attended quarters when I had enough cash. College Possible’s near-peer model provides the support I was missing. As a child of immigrant parents with little understanding of the U.S. educational system, I would have thrived having a near-peer AmeriCorps member coach helping with college selection, applications, interpreting the results of the FAFSA, and navigating the scholarship processes. I am thrilled to support College Possible’s mission to make college admission and success possible for students from low-income backgrounds.

What are you most excited to accomplish?
I am excited to expand College Possible’s visibility and partnerships in the communities we serve. College Possible Washington is in nine high schools and three school districts throughout King County and last year our AmeriCorps member coaches supported students in 174 colleges!

My hope is to increase awareness of our work, to strengthen our partnerships, and to be a good community partner. I work alongside an amazing and dedicated team committed to student success.

What are you looking forward to adding to the Washington team, and what are you looking forward to learning?
The Washington team has done a fantastic job connecting with the community from school partnerships to individual, corporate and foundation supporters. I look forward to bringing my community-centric fundraising perspective as well as my experience removing barriers for students in postsecondary education. In my short time at College Possible I have already learned so much!

My office is next to the AmeriCorps member office space. As I walk the hallways I often peer into their space and I see laughter, group discussions, presentations, and coaches connecting with students one-on-one virtually. At our recent end-of-year celebration, I was impressed by the outcomes for both the high school access and college success programs. I look forward to continuing to learn from our coaches and the Washington leadership team.

What’s the biggest issue you see facing students today and do you have any solutions to them?
Coming from a career of supporting college retention and completion, I believe the biggest issue students face is being unfamiliar with how to navigate the college system, which requires support systems and resources. To walk it alone takes time, energy and perseverance, which I believe often delays college graduation.

I believe College Possible is providing a solution to many of our low-income and first-generation students. But there are still many students in our community struggling without our support. I look forward to working with the College Possible Washington team to focus on student success under the leadership of Executive Director Lauren Treacy. We have a dynamic team and a bright future ahead.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?
I love the outdoors, especially being near the water in warm weather. During the pandemic, I learned how to grow vegetables and I have a new respect for the care and patience it takes to grow food.

The thing people are most surprised to learn about me is…?
I have three rescue cats and honestly, cats scare me (I do love them though). I had to learn how to trap, neuter and release, but I have only trapped and neutered because I haven’t had the heart to send them back outside. Hence, why I have three cats.

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