by: We Rise & Shine
For most students, choosing a college is one of the first major decisions they will make in their adult life. This decision has the power of steering the course of a student’s career, as well as their personal and professional relationships. Though one may think that most students and parents understand the college application process, unfortunately many do not, especially in low income areas. Thankfully, Christine Stewart, a high school counselor from Atlanta founded Higher Learning, a program designed to improve the chances of students gaining college entrance by counseling and assisting them through this difficult process. igher Learning staffers have over 20 years of combined experience in education, and have assisted students and parents with the college access and readiness process. Based on the review of the student's transcript, test scores, and an interview, Higher Learning will research and select colleges which the student has a strong chance of being accepted. Next, they help the students focus on colleges, scholarships & financial aid options best suited to them. Over the past four years, Higher Learning has helped a total of 300 students. Program participants have earned over 2.5 million dollars in scholarships and have gained acceptance into several top universities including Morehouse College, Emory University, Syracuse University, Hampton University, Howard University, Spelman College, and many more. We Rise and Shine recently caught up with Christine to dive further into the background and purpose of her much needed program.
We Rise and Shine: What inspired you to launch Higher Learning?
Christine: I was working at a low-income school as a high school counselor. Everyday multiple students would ask me about the process of applying to college. So I decided to start a club, because they were asking the same questions. It blew my mind that we didn’t already have a program established.
We Rise and Shine: What was the greatest obstacle you encountered when starting your program?
Christine: The greatest challenge was the kid’s varying levels of understanding the college application process. I decided to create student leader positions, and then trained them to combat the varying levels of college bound students. You also have to know the loopholes for certain things and try to keep that in your mental database. It’s a lot to keep up with, but the end result is finding a good fit school for the individual students because they have varying abilities.
We Rise and Shine: What has been your greatest resource?
Christine: There is not a lot of additional resources given to the schools in low-income areas. The areas I want to serve don’t have those funds. What has beneficial for me has been the after school programs and non-profits. They have identified the need to support the program for the community. The non-profits have been the biggest supporter. The program called Project Leap and Communities and Schools. We have worked with each other in the past, I was a counselor at the same time as the current Program Director.
We Rise and Shine: What was the biggest surprise for you since rolling out program?
Christine: A big challenge was getting kids to have confidence in themselves. Some of the students are so scared of the process that they don’t even start it.
We Rise and Shine: What has been the greatest reward for you by founding Higher Learning?
Christine: Being able to connect students with schools where I know they will be successful, and to be able to see them actually become successful. Also, being able to connect them with scholarships so they can actually afford to go.
HELP HIGHER LEARNING RAISE FUNDS TO HELP THEIR PROGRAMMING GOALS REACH THE NEXT LEVEL!
Higher Learning works with many organizations that use grant funds to support programing. Grants used by non-profit organizations can help students in many ways. However, Higher Learning is currently working with a nonprofit organization that is not allowed to purchase essential items for students. With your support, we can help students secure funds to pay for their participation in the program. Higher Learning recently launched a booster campaign to assist with their fundraising efforts. With your purchase of a custom Higher Learning sweatershirt, we can help them achieve their goal of selling 50 shirts.
Here’s how your purchase helps:
1.) Materials: 3-ring binders, folders, pens, paper, flash drives, college access workbooks, ACT/SAT preparation workbooks
2.) Food for field trips
3.) Transportation for college visits
There’s only 4 days left. Get on board today!!