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Just one conversation can be the difference in a student making a smart college choice that will leave him or her on solid financial footing upon graduation—versus not even trying for college.

My personal experience informs my work with students—because, like many of the students I advise, I was a first-generation college student.

I flew under my high school counselor’s radar during college application season because she was overwhelmed with all the students in her caseload. I, admittedly, wasn’t particularly proactive in reaching out to her during the process and ended up doing a lot of the work on my own. That experience made me realize how daunting the process of selecting a college and securing financial aid could be for students and families, and it influenced me to want to do something to help. So, immediately after college, I began working as an in-school advisor to support students like myself, and for the past two years I have been fortunate to serve as uAspire’s College Affordability Advisor for San Francisco’s My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Initiative—which is investing resources into our city’s shrinking black youth population.

"All students need to feel that they have someone who is behind them and committed to their success."
Last year, Arianna was one of my advisees at our 16 partner high schools in the San Francisco Unified School District. She was one of roughly 20 black 12th graders at her high school and one of about only 250 throughout the entire school district.

When Arianna and I met to discuss uAspire's advising services and her college plan, she informed me that she hadn't taken the ACT or SAT—and that this conversation was her first time talking with anyone about college. She had never before even entered the college center at her school. She expressed surprise that I was there to talk just with her, individually, and to go over her post-secondary plan.

I develop a positive relationship with my students by letting them know that they are supported. I find that it is also important to know and understand that every student will have unique concerns and needs. Some students need constant positive reinforcement, and others will take on and complete each task without much follow-up required from me.

During our planning session, Arianna opened up to me that her mother had recently passed away and that her grandfather was now her legal guardian. She also shared that she might want to major in criminal justice and I persuaded her, based on her strong GPA, to research four-year colleges to apply to. At the end of our session, we discussed next steps, which included her registering for the ACT that very same day. She also made a plan to meet with me the next time I would be on campus.

It was clear to me that Arianna left feeling empowered and more knowledgeable than when she walked in. Thanks to Arianna’s personal drive and the resources that uAspire’s partnership with SFUSD and the city-wide My Brother’s Sister’s Keeper initiative offered her, I feel certain that Arianna will be one of our community’s youth who successfully make it to and through college.