Graybird supports Foundation for a College Education to build a robust volunteer college advisory.
Foundation for a College Education (FCE) is an East Palo Alto community-based organization supporting students of color to gain admission to and graduate from 4-year colleges. Volunteers play a vital role in supporting students throughout their high school years. Beginning April of their junior year, FCE students are matched with volunteer senior advisors who help them navigate the college search and application process. In 2015 several of its long-time volunteers retired from their service. While it was disappointing to see dedicated advisors leave the team, the timing created an opportunity. In evaluating its college advising program, FCE felt that juniors and seniors were receiving inconsistent guidance and support. FCE asked Graybird to take a closer look.
Restructuring Senior Advisory
Graybird works extensively with organizations fueled by volunteers. With this background and its college advising expertise, Graybird spent time with FCE to identify areas for growth in its senior advisory program:
Build a Stronger Class Bond
Senior Advisory, a bi-weekly meeting focused on the college admission process, offers students the opportunity to strengthen their relationships and create a vital support network of peers. The summer before senior year is a critical time for the college process. Graybird proposed that FCE use an existing June event, the East Coast College Tour, as a significant bonding opportunity. Students navigated public transportation in busy cities, attended interviews that they had arranged themselves at selected colleges, and wrote thank you notes that they sent each night. FCE seniors significantly deepened their bond as a class through the East Coast College Tour.
Tighten Advising Structure
The successful advisor-student relationship depends on consistent communications and accountability. Following Graybird’s recommendation, FCE committed part-time staff to supervise and support volunteer senior advisors, who establish guidelines for each stage in the college advising process, and check in regularly with advisors. The feedback from advisors at check-in meetings have created a more clearly defined college advising process and informed meaningful updates to the program.
Increase Advisor Retention
Each year, 8 to 10 volunteers support students through the college application process presenting significant opportunity for the advising team to create their own environment of professional development. Graybird proposed development of summer workshops as a way for advisors to share best practices and grow in their own college knowledge. In 2017, FCE volunteer advisors will be invited to sessions on developing college lists, the financial aid process, and supporting students’ essay writing. Senior advisors will be learning from each other, reinforcing best practices and identifying areas for growth.