Author: Andrew Treske
When the Carolina Corps comes together it is an excellent time to recharge our batteries. We swap inspirational stories about our students, gain encouragement, and take a step back from the whirlwind of activity within our schools to get a little more perspective. Whenever I have the opportunity to come together with my colleagues, I am reminded of the old maxim, “You are judged by the company you keep.” Let me state it more clearly: Whenever I leave retreats, I leave with an extra spring in my step because I am inspired by the incredible people that serve in the Corps, and thankful that they are the company I keep. It is an opportunity to pick the brains of my colleagues and learn more about what motivates them. There are 42 advisers in the Corps, meaning that there are 42 hearts and minds dedicated to the same work I am, but with different experiences and perspectives that drive them every day.
Apart from the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by my amazing colleagues, this mid-year retreat was particularly notable because a new and vastly improved data-tracking system was rolled out. Gone are the days of huge Excel spreadsheets, a new era has arrived! Okay, that excitement may seem contrived, but believe me, this thing is really that excellent. This tool will allow us to track our student interactions online, as well as run reports that help us see where we are in meeting our goals and impacting all of our students. Any time you can work smarter and not harder, you have to do it. Well, watch out world! CCAC is working plenty smart now. A big and heartfelt thanks to our IT support team, who was instrumental in the creation of this tool and is working so patiently with us to ensure we can use it to its fullest potential.
Another major highlight from the retreat was the financial aid update given to us by Eric Johnson, the Assistant Director of Communications from the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid at UNC-Chapel Hill. Financial aid is an ever evolving, often confusing, and fundamental aspect of college access. Mr. Johnson was able to explain the shifting political landscape, changes in university administrative policy, and future of financial aid in a clear and concise way. After his presentation, all 42 of us felt we had a clearer understanding of what is going on with financial aid on a broader scale, and what changes are being discussed at a federal level that could impact students. I am so appreciative that financial aid professionals are willing to spend their time with us, to make sure we have accurate and up-to-date information, and to present in such a clear and concise manner. I left the presentation with the overwhelming sentiment, “I am glad that guy is working for UNC-Chapel Hill.”
To end the retreat, we had a lovely barbecue lunch (including the love of my life, hushpuppies) where Nicole Hurd, the founder of the College Advising Corps, joined us. Dr. Hurd preaches that the core tenets of the College Advising Corps are grace, tenacity, and humility and she embodies those qualities in every sense. She had been traveling the country tirelessly to share the work of the College Advising Corps and admitted she was very glad to be home (understandable!). I found her unwavering commitment to sharing our stories completely inspirational, because I was completely drained from my work as well. Although our work is completely different, it is energizing to see the leader of College Advising Corps as worn down as you are by the end of the year. It means you are both giving your all to the same cause. She absolutely leads by example and gives her all to college access. A sincere thank you for all that you do, Dr. Hurd.
My favorite part of the retreat was seeing all my colleagues (more importantly, friends). I am constantly challenged and humbled by my colleagues and the incredible passion that they exhibit for each and every student they have. This is not a job for people that don’t like extremes. Sometimes it feels like your mood is completely driven by your student’s successes, obstacles, and the incredible challenges they face every day. If you are not special in your capacity to care, it can swallow you up. Every single one of my colleagues is special.
It takes a great humanity to make real and substantive change. Change does not come about by disinterest. Were you to ask me about any one of my colleagues, I could rave about the qualities they possess that make you pause and consider what makes them so special. Sometimes when we are all together, I look around and think about all that we will accomplish in the future. That is one powerful thought. It is always a good day to be a Tar Heel, but it is an even better day to be a member of the Carolina College Advising Corps.
My closing thoughts center around gratitude. To be completely candid, I am often amazed that I was afforded the opportunity to be a member of the Carolina College Advising Corps. The fact that CCAC believed in me enough to place me in a high school as a mentor to our students is absolutely humbling. I love what I do, I love my students, I love my colleagues, and I love CCAC for granting me this opportunity.