Presidential 2016: When High School Students Realize that College is Possible, Everything Changes

Thanks to the persistence of social innovators across the country, every day we see strategies that are working and delivering results in a rapidly changing world. This ongoing blog series will highlight the voices of our Coalition of more than 70 social innovators and their solutions to our country’s most pressing social problems, as well as examples of how this powerful work can be transformed into national change. Today we will hear from Walid Abubakar, a College Possible student, about how his College Possible coach helped him understand that college was a viable pathway, and prepared him for success in his transition from high school to college.

This blog post was co-authored by Walid Abubakar, a College Possible student attending the University of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Cooper, Director of Communications at College Possible.

First, there was just Walid, on his own and driven to go to medical school. Then there was his work to master English, his AmeriCorps coach, Grace, his modest, then climbing (to 25!) ACT score, and his acceptance and stellar performance at the University of Minnesota. Finally came his realization that he could make it by simply being himself.

“It never occurred to me someone would hear my story and think of it as a strength,” said Walid, reflecting in a media interview on the essay that earned him a prestigious Horatio Alger scholarship. Walid is also a Gates Millennium Scholar.

Walid Abubakar reflects on his first year of college.

Photo by Molly Ladwig

Photo by Molly Ladwig

I’m really proud of the things that I have accomplished. They have given me the opportunity to educate myself without having the constant worry of paying for college. I’m just really grateful; the only thing I’m worrying about is getting the education, not how I’m going to pay for it. That’s amazing.

In high school I would hear of all these amazing students who wanted to go to college, but they weren’t able to because tuition is too expensive. I had College Possible in high school to push me. Because of the things that they have done for me I’m in a really good place in college. College Possible is for people who need support in college readiness, ACT prep, and working toward graduation, and those are definitely the kinds of support I didn’t have. Those are the things I used to worry about, and now it feels like all the doors are open and I have all the opportunities to pursue whatever life goal I choose.

I feel some pressure to decide what I want to do. I’m in the middle of asking myself, “do I really want to go into medicine or pursue engineering like I came here to do?” It’s hard to decide how best I can make this worth it. That’s what my journey is all about, just trying to make something of all the things that I’m blessed with. That’s really a challenge.

I feel sometimes that I have to do just a little bit more than what my peers would be doing just because of my way of growing up. A lot of the chemistry students that I sit with have been involved in chemistry projects or they had chemistry tutors outside of their high school, so they’re more prepared for the rigorous courses here. I need to do just a little bit more just to be on the same level that they are.

I’m definitely thinking bigger than just a bachelor’s degree. I’m really working hard to make sure my grades are good so I can be competitive when I want to go into graduate school.

There’s a lot that I’m looking forward to. My first year has been an eye-opener to all the possibilities that are available to me. The way I view things now is I have to work extremely hard to reach my goal, and that is to educate myself and make a difference for my community and my people. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but now I have the support and resources to accomplish this goal and many more ahead of me.

The College Possible Approach

Photo by Molly Ladwig

Photo by Molly Ladwig

We are idealistic leaders who believe the power of education, our students and our supporters can change the country. We coach low-income students toward college graduation and they prove, every day, that when college is possible anything is possible.

College Possible coaches, serving as AmeriCorps members, guide high school students through all of the key aspects of preparing for college during after-school sessions. Over the course of their junior and senior years, students get extensive preparation for the ACT/SAT exam, exposure to college life through campus tours and summer enrichment programs, and support through the college application and financial aid process – and the coaching doesn’t stop there.

We make every effort to connect students to their best-fit college, and a College Possible student is twice as likely to go to a four-year institution, and five times more likely to graduate. College Possible high school graduates are coached through the transition to college and are supported all the way through college graduation, and their coaches prepare them to be financially literate students with great study skills, ready to face the common obstacles to graduation. Hear directly from our students about bridging the degree divide, financial aid, and what changes when college is possible.

Read more about how social innovators in the America Forward Coalition, like College Possible, are solving America’s biggest problems in communities across the country every day in our briefing book, Moving America Forward: Innovators Lead the Way to Unlocking America’s Potential, and join the conversation. Follow @CollPossible and @America_Forward, and tell us how your life changed when you realized that college was possible using #AFPresidential16.

Previous Article America Forward: The Next POTUS Can Help Youth Start On The Right Path May 24, 2016 < Next Article Presidential 2016: A High-Tech, High-Touch Approach to Improving College Success May 24, 2016 >

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