We have an impact. I think that is what I would want this letter to show.
With a large amount of resources invested into this mission, we often need to prove that there is a need and an impact created by our presence. Numbers tend to be where those who would fund us look, but the real impact comes on the individual basis.
It's the student who realizes, while having help filling out a college application, that going to college could actually be a reality for them.
It's the student whose worldview opens up after receiving a letter from a college many miles away in a place they only dreamed of visiting.
It's the parent who breaks down into tears as they see the money a FAFSA will bring their student because a family dream has just been made a reality.
It's the student who didn't take high school seriously but, with a little help and attention, finds a renewed motivation to push forward and follow their dreams.
In my opinion, no series of numbers or colorful graphs can quantify the meaning captured in these moments, and I should know because these aren't just emotional hypotheticals. These are real moments that I have seen in the time I have spent as an Advisor.
So though there are hard times (as with any job), I believe there is an impact being made by this program on a daily basis, and I believe the stories of our area's most successful people will echo my call in the years to come as the students whose experiences were described above become those successful ones.
Editor's Note: This is our final Advisor letter for this batch, but we have a few surprises to come! Stay tuned to our social media and the website to catch our next projects come to life. In fact, I believe there are many more Letters to come!
When I first started as a NiswongerCARE Advisor, I was pretty nervous. Not necessarily about the tasks of the job, but about the fact that I will have a role in students’ making important decisions about their future. Even though they don’t always realize it, the choices they make during this time in their lives are some of the most crucial ones, as those start the foundation of their future. It is important that all students, no matter their background or situation, have any and all resources that will enable them to understand the opportunities available and how it is absolutely possible to take them.
In the short time I have been a CARE advisor, I have seen so many students with much potential in a variety of fields, and being able to help them start the post-secondary process has been more rewarding than I imagined. Some students have even asked about my college experience, which I gladly tell in order to help ease their concerns and uncertainties. These students need to know that they are not alone in having fears and that it is ok to be scared as long as they do not let it stop them from pursuing their dreams. Seeing a student get excited when they realize their dream school and career is a real possibility or having a student drop in to say thank you for my help (even when I don’t feel like I did much) makes me feel like I really am making a difference, even if I am only one of many roles for someone in the end.
I have met so many students as a NiswongerCARE advisor. All of them have different ideas and goals for what they want to do after high school. I am always very impressed when I meet students that have it all figured out and have already made solid steps towards their futures. We will discuss options and scholarships available and make sure that they are aware of deadlines and such. However, what I enjoy the most is helping those students that don’t know what they want to do or their aspirations might seem out of reach. For them, this time can be very intimidating and stressful. I like to sit with a student and we will do interest inventories and personality assessments and then begin to narrow down a focus. Hopefully by the time they leave, they have a better grasp on what they want for themselves and a path is more visible to them.
There is a student at one of my schools, who I have spoken with multiple times, who has a pretty common situation. He waited too long to take school seriously. However, during his junior and senior year, he has been trying to improve and choose a career. He will admit that he was not the ideal student, and understands his GPA is not going to meet many university standards. Yet, he is not giving up and still working very hard to meet other criteria that schools look for. He is dedicating time every day to study for the ACT with the goal of bringing his score up at least six more points. He also has an impressive amount of community service and work experience that has made him grow more mature and improve his work ethic. His hard work is paying off, he has already been accepted into ETSU, and with his most recent ACT score, shouldn’t have to take remedial classes. He wants to try to get into the Bridge program at UT. Because of this, we have been working on his application essay, setting ACT goals, and spoken with graduates from UT, who have given him tips and advice. He understands the challenge and is willing to go to ETSU or another school like WSCC to show UT that he can handle the coursework. This student has high aspirations and is using his past mistakes to push himself harder. His dedication to improving himself is very inspiring and if he continues to work hard, I am confident that his dream of going to UT can become a reality one day.
One of the most rewarding parts of being a NiswongerCARE Advisor is getting to know the students I work with. As I meet with them and discover what goals they have for the future, I want to do everything in my power to help them succeed! I always share my personal college experience with my students. From trying to discover where to go to college, planning what I want to major in, and then finally realizing this is something I am achieving on my own. It was a stressful, but rewarding time in my life. Some students know exactly where they will go and what they will do, but for others it may be a process to get there. I love sitting down with those students and creating a plan to help them reach their goals!
I LOVE grocery shopping. The possibilities within the aisles are endless. I can spend hours in a grocery store imagining new fun things to try or that I might like. I stroll the aisles, check out, unpack my groceries, only to realize I have nothing to eat!
It’s easy for me to get distracted by the possibilities and options that I completely miss the options that will end in something I can make an actual meal out of.
“Giuli, what does grocery shopping have to do with post-secondary plans?” I’m so glad you asked!
Planning for life after high school can look a lot like my average grocery trip: misguided and unproductive. Students have a TON of options in front of them. It’s easy for a student to get distracted by all the possibilities and miss the one that works best for them. Whenever there are decisions to be made, it helps to have someone there to keep you on task and guide you along the way. That’s where I come in.
My job as a NiswongerCARE advisor allows me the opportunity to walk alongside some AMAZING students. I help them realize what plans work best for them, and then help them stay on task to achieve it. Any time you must tackle something new, it can be intimidating. However, with a helping hand and a “one step at a time” approach, it can…will… come to fruition.
What I’m really trying to say is I have the best job ever. I wake up, go to work, and watch students pursue their purpose. Now if anyone can teach me to stay on task in the grocery store, it would be much appreciated.
Sometimes the most challenging, stressful days of being a NiswongerCARE Advisor also serve as being the most rewarding. The moments where I am most overwhelmed allow me stop and reflect on the amount of support I am providing to the students in each of the schools I serve. My greatest contribution as a Care Advisor has been assisting parents and students in completing the FAFSA, required to complete if the student plans to attend post-secondary and potentially receive financial aid. While this application is time consuming and confusing for first-generation students, it is even more stressful on those parents. Being the person that provides a magnitude of post-secondary support to these families is what encourages me to continually work hard and strive for higher college-going statistics in my schools. It is also humbling to be able to experience these life-changing milestones with the students alongside them and help them achieve a level of autonomy. Each day brings a new discovery, as I am always excited to see what tomorrow is going to hold.
“All our dreams can come true, if you have the courage to pursue them”
- Walt Disney
I’ve had this quote up in my office at Cherokee High School since I began this position with NiswongerCARE. I didn’t realize when I wrote the quote how much courage some of these students truly have. Most of the students I work with face more hardships in their seventeen/ eighteen years of life than we could ever imagine. But their difficulties don’t stop them. In fact, I think it inspires most of them to create a better tomorrow. I am humbled and blessed to be apart of that journey and help pave the way toward their dreams.
During my time as a NiswongerCARE advisor, I’ve grown a passion for helping rural; East Tennessee students pursue their dreams and create a better life for themselves and their families. My hope is that I at plant a seed in the lives of each student and create a college-going culture in the schools I am fortunate enough to work with. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with the amazing ladies and gentleman, our directors, and the counselors at Cherokee High School, North Greene High School, and West Greene High School.
When people ask, “So, what do you do?”
Well, let me tell you…
Sure, we help students apply to college…and when I say students, I mean a caseload of hundreds at multiple schools. Need a letter of recommendation? Got it. Scholarship assistance? We do that. We can register a student for the ACT with our eyes closed and we have assisted with the filing of FAFSAs that account for hundreds of thousands of dollars in student aid.
But most importantly…
We care for these students as if they were our own younger brothers and sisters. We aggravate them like a mother would, because we see the potential they have yet to discover. While we only hope to change their lives, they inevitably change ours. Each day is a new adventure and while they aren’t always easy – they are so worth it.
My college-going experience was completely different from what is offered at Tennessee High School. I didn’t have anyone there to help me and support me along the way. The counselors at Tennessee High are wonderful at creating a college-going culture in their school, and I have loved getting to work alongside them. My favorite part of college and career counseling is working with a student who doesn’t think they can get into their reach school and seeing the smile on their face when they walk into your office to show you their acceptance letter to that school. It makes all of the hard work you put in well worth it!
I have enjoyed my time thus far working at Happy Valley High School. I am inspired by the students who come to school even though they have bigger things to worry about, like where they will sleep that night or if they will get dinner. Coming from a small town myself, I feel connected to these students in some way. As a NiswongerCARE advisor, I believe my upbringing helps me connect to the students and understand them better. I am humbled by the students who come in dealing with their own ordeals wanting to apply to Tennessee Promise or complete a college application. Unknowingly, these students challenge me to work harder. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a CARE advisor.