Author: Stone Yeatts, first-year adviser serving J. M. Morehead High School

After graduating from John M. Morehead High School in 2013, I never anticipated returning in any capacity besides the occasional homecoming game. At the time, college was the only thing on my mind. I wanted more opportunities in life and a college degree seemed to me to be the best way to make that happen. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017 and faced a question that has confounded college graduates past and present: What now? The answer to that question is different for everyone, partly because we graduate with different sets of skills and knowledge that make pursuing certain pathways more logical than others, and partly because we all require different things to makes us feel complete. I fall into the latter category. After graduation, I found myself looking for meaning. I reflected on what my circumstances had afforded me in life, particularly the fact that I attended a school that had a college adviser who was available to assist with navigating the college application process. It was in that moment that I realized that I wanted to become a college adviser in order to give back.

The Carolina College Advising Corps has allowed me the opportunity to not only return, but also to give back to the community and the school that helped mold me. Having been an advisee, I know first-hand how beneficial it truly is to have someone who can assist with the college application process. Ms. Molly Norwood, who served then as the college adviser, helped me identify in which school I would fit well academically and socially, and it was she who pushed me to pursue as many rigorous courses that Morehead had to offer. To say it took a lot of pushing on her part would be an understatement. Now that I’m on the other side of the table, I see students who face many of the same struggles I did as a senior, the stress and frustration that comes with trying to navigate this process. The fact of the matter is: applying to college is a lot more complex and tedious than it used to be. For example students enrolling in college are required to complete RDS, a service which is used to verify a student’s state residency for tuition purposes. This is a new step that students applying to college last year did not have to face. This is one of many instances where having someone trained to walk students through the process can be beneficial.

Carolina College Advising Corps advisers: Stone Yeatts, Phoebe Bulls, Gemma Herrera & Ashton Tomlin

I believe my experience as an advisee, as well as my placement in my home high school, has allowed me to build strong relationships with my students. I strive to work collaboratively with the student services team, which includes school counselors, our career development coordinator, our data manager, and our curriculum specialist to ensure that all students graduate with a passionate plan. A typical day for me varies, but usually involves things such as FAFSA assistance, SAT/ACT registration, classroom presentations, coordinating and executing college visits, individual student meetings, matching students with scholarship opportunities, and A LOT of password resets. 

The amount of community support makes a huge difference as well, specifically the relationship that we have with Rockingham Community College, which we celebrate. RCC has been especially helpful when working with students who want access to a more prosperous life by starting local before going far. Representatives from Enrollment Services have been so accommodating when coming to the high schools to provide on-site assistance to students. It is in relationships like these- the ones which have grown and expanded throughout the past 10 years- that enable our college advising team here at Morehead, McMichael, Reidsville, Rockingham, and the Early College to successfully serve students. Rockingham County is unique because we are the only county in NC that has a one-to-one model with advisers. This means we have a college adviser serving at every high school in our county. To add, Rockingham County has one of the longest partnerships with the advising Corps. An adviser was here when there were only 10 advisers in NC. Now we have 57 advisers serving 77 schools in the state. The amount of students served here in Rockingham County in the past 10 years has increased exponentially as our resources and partnerships have continued to grow. 

Though every day is a little different, the ultimate goal of extending higher education opportunities to our students runs current throughout the school year. Are there hard days? No doubt. It’s never easy when a student is denied acceptance to their dream school. But it’s worth it in the end, when that same student discovers a school that they’d never been exposed to before, and the fire is rekindled. The service that we provide is rewarding and I wouldn’t trade this year, nor the next, for anything.

Rockingham County has been recognized as the birthplace of the state’s community college system. So, it comes as no surprise how supportive everyone here has been in helping execute our mission. I appreciate the support my county has for us as advisers and the commitment they have to our students’ futures and education.

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