Author: Alecia Mahato, First-Year Adviser serving J.M. Morehead High School
Greetings! My name is Alecia Mahato and I serve as a college adviser at John Motley Morehead High School in Eden, NC. Eden is a small town of approximately 15,000 residents located on the border of Virginia. Most of our students were born and raised in Eden, as were their parents, and their parents’ parents. Eden is known as being the birth place of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Miller-Coors, and the famous RiverFest – it is also was once a bustling and busy mill town, with many factories producing carpets, cotton and textiles. Since that time, Eden has undergone an economic change, requiring students to think differently about their futures after high school.
With that, I absolutely love the work that I do at Morehead and in the community of Eden. I especially love my students. Their warm hearts, contagious smiles, and approachability motivates me to continue advocating for them each and every day that I serve as a Corps Member. As a school where more than half of the students are unable to afford lunch, where the admirable desire to work and earn money for their families surpasses the desire to further their own education, it is sometimes challenging to encourage students to think about college. Setting my students up for success is my number one priority – and making college an option for every single student and a dream of every single student is my ultimate goal. I can definitely say that the students at Morehead take me very seriously because I set my expectations high, because I know of the great potential in each of them. I think that one of the finest examples of my high expectations was revealed through College Application Week, the time during which I expected almost all of our seniors to apply to college.
College Application Week, an annual event hosted by the College Foundation of North Carolina, took place November 18-22 this year. The week works to reduce barriers to accessing post-secondary education. Many schools in NC waive their application fees for students who apply, while it is a time we, as a state can promote awareness of post-secondary degrees. Additionally, the week was an integral piece of my students’ pathway to college.
As a College Adviser, it is humbling to be an important part of the college application process. I assisted students who were excited to finally be clicking “submit”, while I also assisted students who were having trouble answering questions that most, would consider to be simple. Every day I learn something new about access to postsecondary education, and college applications are just a small piece of that very large puzzle.
For many of our seniors, completing applications is one of the greatest barriers to accessing college, as it forces students to reconcile with a number of difficult topics. Most of the time I was able to assist my students in answering some of the application questions, however, I could not help but wonder, how would they answer these questions on their own? Would they have even completed the application, or just stopped and gave up because they did not know the answer?
At the end of the week students who submitted applications during College Application Week were invited to participate in an “I Applied!” party in the media center. I planned the party thinking that perhaps 10 or 12 seniors would participate. I just wanted to congratulate the students and celebrate them as the broke through one barrier. Little did I know, nearly 60 seniors would showed up to celebrate their success! My students were relieved to be done with CAW, enjoyed cake and good company and also participated in a photo booth! We celebrated together, and celebrated our victory. The first part of college access complete, and ready for the next steps.
My students know that I ALWAYS meet them where they are. I hold them to high expectations because I know that they can and will achieve their goals and reach their dreams. College Application Week at Morehead High School was a great success! By submitting college applications during CAW, students at Morehead saved over $2,840 in college application fees. Nearly 70% of our seniors participated in CAW and over 135 applications were submitted by our seniors during CAW! CAW means the world to my students – many of whom are low income and would not have had the opportunity to apply to college if this designated week had not been created.
Can you imagine not having the ability to pursue your future, because of a simple application fee or because you did not have support in completing the application? For my students, CAW served as the tipping point, as a time that both sparked their interest in applying to college and gave them the opportunity to do so. I am honored to have been a part of Morehead’s College Application Week this week, and I cannot wait to see the colleges my students will be admitted to and the pathways they will choose for the next four years of their lives!