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Author: Yolanda Keith, Carolina College Advising Corps Program Director

For many, it is a daunting thought to walk into a small, rural, Title I high school, and to be told, “Go, change the culture here.” But, for the advisers of the Carolina College Advising Corps, this is a challenge they take, head-on, every day. The Carolina College Advising Corps aims to build a college-going culture in high schools with low college application and college enrollment rates. Whether it stems from communities with high rates of low socioeconomic statuses or communities highly populated by potential first generation college students, the need for an increased focus on secondary education is evident.

 When building a college-going culture in high schools, the first thought is of traditional 4-year colleges and universities. Community colleges are often left by the way-side. Many times, they are not viewed as a viable option for higher education. Additionally, there are many myths that plague the perception of community colleges in a negative way. With that, Advising Corps advisers question: What becomes of the students that are not ready to make that transition to 4-year colleges. With the increase in admissions requirements, community colleges are a great option following high school. It often gives the student a chance to transition into college life at a pace better suited to their needs and it allows them to improve their academic transcript to make acceptance into a 4-year school more likely.

Carolina College Advising Corps Adviser, Ari DeDeaux, of Scotland and South Robeson High Schools saw the negative stigmas of community colleges in both her schools. She was charged to change this.  In order to help open her students’ eyes to the benefits of the local community college, Ms. DeDeaux, decided to plan a Community College Day at Robeson Community College (RCC) for the students at South Robeson High School.

Students began their day with an admissions information session. This was followed with a panel of current community college students speaking about their experiences at RCC. They gave a realistic picture of what student life is like at the community college and what to expect. The students learned about the many programs offered at RCC including nursing, criminal justice, electronics, and cosmetology. Ms. DeDeaux’s students were then taken on a thorough tour throughout the campus where they were able to visit a variety of different classes and lab rooms. Finally, the day ended with sessions on transitioning out of community college and into a 4-year college or university and financial aid. The trip was a huge success for the 25 students that took advantage of the opportunity. The goal of highlighting the community college the same as 4-year schools was greatly accomplished.

Since the trip, Ms. DeDeaux has seen an increase in interest in the community college among her students. All of the students that participated submitted applications after the visit. “These are students with great potential but just need a little extra push. By going to RCC they w be more likely to continue on to a university or at least enter the work-force with some form of secondary education”, she says. Her next project is to take those students that have applied, back to RCC to take their placement test in order to register for classes in the fall. In addition, she plans to continue changing the negative perceptions about the community college in the high school community. Days after the visit, Ms. DeDeaux had already begun planning her visit next year and anticipates being able to take even more students than before.

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