My office on a regular day is not, in fact, an office at all. My office is a conference room tucked in an out of the way part of the school. It’s small, has no windows, and runs about 15 degrees colder than the rest of the school. Past its humble offerings, this office, to me, represents so much more than its four white, windowless walls. In this office futures are discovered. Hundreds of students have sat in the chair on the other end of the table and told their hopes and dreams to the girl in the swivel chair on the other side. When they come in, we are strangers, and when we leave that school at the end of the year, I will never see them again. But for that brief moment in time, we are partners together; both of us working together for the future. This office represents what it means to me to be a NiswongerCARE Advisor; two people working together, despite circumstances, to build a better future.
I am in my third year as a NiswongerCARE Advisor at Elizabethton High School. One of the things that inspires me as a NiswongerCARE advisor is to help and advocate for students who have a path similar to the one I had when I was their age and for those who may not have the support or encouragement to achieve above their expectations. When I was in high school, I did not score well on my ACT any of the three times I took it. My results stated that I would not make it in college or obtain a college degree. Long story short, I made it through college and I am now completing my Masters degree. I strive to tell all students they can accomplish anything they set their mind to, and it is not the end of the world if they fail. Grit and perseverance are two areas in my life that have helped me overcome obstacles. Never give up, you give up once, and you will give up on every obstacle for the rest of your life.
I was a week away from graduating college before I knew what I would be doing afterward. I remember how excited I was on that Thursday before commencement when I was able to call Denise and confirm my employment as a NiswongerCARE Advisor. At that point, if someone had asked me what I would be doing I would have said something to the likes of, "I'll be helping students go to college and find jobs they're interested in." If you were to ask me that question now, after a few months on the job, this is what I'll tell you: "I help kids get into college, but that doesn't even begin to describe it fully. How much time do you have?" My job is sitting with students who have never thought of themselves as college-material and showing them just how valuable their talents and interests can be. It's resetting TSAC account after TSAC account to make sure that my schools reach 100% for TN Promise applications so that every senior student at Sullivan East, Central, and North has the opportunity to attend a two year school or TCAT with as few barriers as possible. My job is celebrating with students when they find out that they've been accepted into the school of their dreams. It's reminding anxious teenagers that they are always going to be growing and changing so knowing exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives doesn't have to happen at seventeen. I try to calm nerves and build confidence and that's exactly what my students have done for me, too. Being a CARE Advisor has taught me the value of my own abilities and about the impact that I am capable of having. There is no better feeling than when a student I've worked with pops their head in my door to say hi and let me know about some good thing that has happened in their college planning journey. That's what I do and that's why I love it.
My work with the students at Sullivan South so far has been amazing. At the FAFSA Frenzy event here last year, two people showed up. This year, we had over sixty! It has been so great to see families coming together in support of their children. It has been very encouraging for me to talk with students and dream with them about the future. I think of one student in particular: when I told her I believed she could make it in college, she looked at me incredulously and replied, “no one has ever told me that before.” I believe in the students in our region, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to support them along the way to reaching their goals!
In a throwback to last year, we will be taking the next few weeks to share with you the reasons we do what we do. Some of them are our stories, and some of them are the stories of others. However, they all are a part of our inspiration, and we hope that they will be for you as well!
If you would like to check out some of the stories from last year, check out the archive here.