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Tommy Yandle

Author: Tommy Yandle, First-Year Adviser serving Granville Central High School

On October 1, I stepped off my second-ever plane ride, and found myself in uncharted territory. The Carolina Corps had landed in the nation’s capital, where 500+ college advisers, program directors, and motivational speakers were convening for a four-day, three night national summit that would forever change my perspective on advising and the true impact we have on the lives of our students. As a newcomer to the nation’s capital, I could hardly contain my excitement. I was star struck by the thought of being a metro ride away from the President of the United States. The notion that I could be standing next to a Congresswoman or Senator on my walk down 21st Street had me as giddy as a child on Christmas morning.

My roots are planted in a small rural town and I serve in a similar setting, so coming to D.C. was the quintessential “big time” for me. No longer was I surrounded by tobacco fields and back roads, but by towering buildings, bustling streets, and beautiful historic monuments. And while my surroundings were awe-inspiring, it was the group of fellow college advisers who captured and held my attention from the start of the summit.

Hailing from Alaska to Georgia, California to New York, and Missouri to Illinois, we were a nation of advisers brought together by a common goal: college access for our students. This chance to meet and collaborate with a group of people as passionate as I about advising could not have come at a better time. Prior to my attendance at the summit, I had been struggling a little bit in my school. On slow days, I found myself questioning the impact I was making on my students. I am the first college adviser to come to my school, and like any person filling a new position, I have been met with a few obstacles. While I had fallen in love with my students and staff in August, I wasn’t sure if I could swoon over the contributions I was making.

The first thing that began to reset my frame of mind was the reunion of our very own Carolina Corps. Seeing everyone’s lovely faces for the first time since summer training began to reignite the spark inside of me that had seemed to dim. After a beautiful luncheon with our funders and a very inspiring speech by our fellow adviser, Ms. Briana O’Neal, my confidence began to rebuild and I started to think more positively and appreciatively about my role. Soon after, more motivating words came from our founder, Dr. Nicole Hurd, and our keynote speaker, Mellody Hobson, who called for us to remember two simple words of encouragement: “Be brave.”

That night, something clicked in my head in a way I’ve never experienced before: We are not just college advisers. We do not simply help students register for the SAT or ACT. We cannot start to think that what we do has only a minuscule effect on those around us.

WE ARE GLADIATORS.

These are our schools.

These are our students.

We fight for them every single day.

Whether it’s giving a student a transcript or giving advice about the common application, we thrive in the organized chaos that is our lives. We advocate for each and every student that walks into our office with a smile, a shared experience, or a shoulder to lean on. We have to be brave every single day for all the students across the nation. One day, I want to look across the crowd of college advisers at their national summit and think, “I remember when we were only 500 strong. Now we touch every state, every county, and every school.”

This is not just some fantasy. The impact we make is beginning to grow more evident. Each day we make a difference. Our summit taught me that.

Now that I am back in my school, I am motivated beyond belief. My goal each and every day is to walk out of my office asking myself if I was brave, and knowing without a doubt that I have been. With the support of my fellow advisers across the nation, my fellow Carolina Corps family, and our amazing national office, I know I am here for a reason. I’m here to be that someone that each student needs. I’m here to be my students’ gladiator when no one else will be. The Adviser Summit re-energized me, renewed my conviction, and returned me to my school fully aware of the impact I can have as a college adviser.

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