Being a first-year adviser can be extremely tough and exhausting. This is especially true when there are large shoes to fill. The adviser who preceded me broke many barriers in an effort to increase college access in the local community. Thankfully, I have support from the AdviseMI program and community members so that together we can break down even more barriers. 

During my first semester at Redford Union, I connected with every student in the senior class in a group setting or individually. At least once a week, I would spend an entire day in the English classes, forming a strong bond with the teachers and students. By being an open and available source of support and information, students are comfortable coming to me whenever they have a question. Most of my senior class has completed at least one college application. I made it a requirement for students to apply to our local community college and complete research on a program they might be interested in at that college. While not every student will end up attending the community college, it gave hope and insight to students who might not have known they could obtain a postsecondary credential so close to home, for a fraction of the assumed cost.

While I had some high points in my first few months, there have also been some continuing challenges. FAFSA completion has proven to be a beast. Low FAFSA completion rates can often be tied to low parent involvement. I’ve noticed that many parents still don’t understand the process of applying to college, and are skeptical when their student asks for personal information. I am brainstorming ideas on how to keep parents informed and push the FAFSA numbers through the roof.

Moving forward, I want to have at least 50% of my students complete the FAFSA by the end of the semester. I would like to sit down with all of my students individually so that no one feels left out and they all have a chance to talk with me one-on-one. It is also my goal to get about half of my students to apply to three or more colleges. Looking back on these last three months, I am proud of what I have accomplished at my service site, and cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Deja Clemons is a first-year college adviser for the AdviseMI program and serves at Redford Union High School.