March Editor's Note

As a first generation college student it is not lost on me that some students don’t see the impact that a higher education can have on their future goals and dreams. I’m lucky to have parents who didn’t give me any other option, and they encouraged and supported me every step of the way in order to help me realize my goals. Yet I have friends who either chose not to explore options for higher education or who weren’t exposed to the opportunities that lie beyond high school. Coming from a rural community, it’s easy to see how college doesn’t satisfy the immediate demands of the realities that some students face. Under previous economic circumstances it was relatively easy for a recent high school graduate in my hometown to get a job at a local power plant, auto shop, or restaurant and get by. Now, not so much. Higher education is more important than ever, and it’s time to step up the outreach to students who need it.

If a student has his or her sights set on something bigger than a high school degree, it can help that individual stay committed to earning the grades to accomplish that goal. Fulfillment of the Five Promises ensures that a student has the resources and support to make their dreams happen, and opens the door to completing a higher degree. Engaging teachers who are able to relate classroom material to real world jobs and experiences will help students see why they should stay in school and set the goal of college completion.

It is never too early to prepare yourself to pursue higher education, and it’s never too late to help someone else achieve that goal. The Center for College and Career Readiness has a program called Good to Go that begins challenging students in middle school to take ownership of their own college readiness. This America’s Promise partner organization also offers programs that offset the cost of expensive college applications and that prepare students to be peer motivators for college and career readiness. Organizations like these can give students the boost they need to make their own education a priority and for college to be a reality.

Being a young person doesn’t mean you’re powerless to help someone make it to college. Be an example among your peers. Speak out about the importance of pursuing a higher education. If you know someone who has considered dropping out or who doesn’t think college is an option for them, help them realize that they can get assistance and support from people who care about their success. Not everyone is given a clear path to a college degree, supportive adults, and the financial means to make higher education an easy option. Help your school become connected to Alliance partner organizations like The Center for College and Career Readiness, The Center for Student Opportunity, and College Summit. All of these organizations work to help students make college possible.

The journey to a college degree isn’t a solitary one. Most college students today can remember a person, or group of people, who made college a reality for them, perhaps by providing funding through a scholarship or through support and friendship. I can remember many people who have influenced my path to college in various ways. As a young person, you can have a positive influence on someone too. Think about those who have helped you reach your goals, and do the same for another. When we take advantage of opportunities to help others, we help ourselves grow and prepare for our own future too.

Preparing for higher education takes many years of effort and hard work, and sometimes it can be hard to stay focused. Think about how it will feel on the day that you open your first college acceptance letter, or reminisce about that moment you’ve already had. Doesn’t everyone deserve to experience that? I think so. We can all do our part to make sure that we and our peers are ready for college. What will you do?