Tufts University

Higher Hopes

College Advising CorpsFor some high school students, attending college doesn't seem like an option. But a group of determined Tufts graduates is trying to change that perception.

When Denise Wiseman came to Tufts from Jefferson City, Mo., she knew she was setting out on a different path from a lot of her high school friends. Many of them, she says, did not go to college and are currently supporting themselves—and sometimes their families—by working low-income jobs.

"I attribute me not being in a similar situation to having continued my education," says the 2007 Tufts graduate. Now, Wiseman is helping local high school students who may think of college as an impossible goal realize that it is, in fact, within their reach.

"Two things I'm very interested in are public service and youth attaining education. [The College Advising Corps program] was a great intersection of the two."

— Denise Wiseman (A'07)

Wiseman is one of four Tufts graduates who are working full time for the College Advising Corps (CAC), a national initiative headed in Massachusetts by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and Massachusetts Campus Compact (MACC), a statewide collegiate civic engagement nonprofit hosted on the Tufts campus since 1995.

The program seeks to increase college enrollment rates for low-income high school students while facilitating partnerships between high schools and college campuses that support college access efforts. The Corps is funded largely by a $1 million, four-year grant from the Jack Kent Cooke foundation, with a 75 percent match obligation from Tisch College and MACC. Tufts was one of more than 100 schools that applied for the grant, and one of only 10 to receive it.

Current match funds come in the form of a AmeriCorps Education Award, which the advisors can use towards school loans or post-graduate studies. Each advisor is enrolled in MACC's AmeriCorps "Leaders in Service" program, and they receive the Education Award upon completion of their service.

Tufts seniors are invited to apply for positions in the corps, where they are assigned to work with a high school and a college in Massachusetts.

"Two things I'm very interested in are public service and youth attaining education," says Wiseman. "This was a great intersection of the two."

This is a pilot year for the grant, with high schools and partner colleges in four Massachusetts communities participating: East Boston High and Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown; Drury High and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in North Adams; Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School and UMass-Dartmouth; and Springfield High School of Science & Technology and American International College. The goal is to ultimately involve 15 high schools in the next three years.

Thirteen Tufts students applied for 10-month positions at locations around the state. The four corps members were chosen based on their passion for working on community partnerships, says program coordinator Andrew Cahill.

College Advising Corps

Ninth and tenth graders from East Boston High School came to Tufts in December to learn about the college experience.

"This ethic of service is imbued across the spectrum [at Tufts]," he says. "There are a lot of students who, regardless of academic interest, have a personal investment in community work and civic engagement."

Corps members are placed in host schools and spend most of their time doing one-on-one college advising to low-income students from underrepresented populations. Wiseman and her counterparts talk to the students about applications, essays, financial aid, the SAT and other aspects of the college application process. The corps members work closely with the guidance counselors at each school to provide high school students with resources to make an informed decision about their future after graduation.

"In each site, it's been a learning process," says Cahill. "Our goal is to figure out how this program best functions in each high school." (continued)

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Profile written by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications

Photos by Melody Ko, University Photographer

This story originally ran on Jan. 7, 2008.