College Possible, supporting students throughout their college journey

Hi Friends,

Spring is just around the corner, and for high school seniors, that means getting ready for life after graduation! While this can be an exciting time for some, it can be a daunting process for others. Here in Milwaukee, 43% of our graduating high school seniors enroll in postsecondary education. For some students, they will be the first ones in their family to ever go. Other students come from a low-income household and college seems financially impossible. Many students don’t even know where to begin the whole process. How do I perform well on the ACT, or even sign up? What schools would be a good fit for me, academically, financially and socially? What does FAFSA even stand for??

As a collective impact partnership, we collaborate around new ideas, but we also lift up what is already working for kids in Milwaukee. One of our Goal 3 Postsecondary Access and Success Network partners is College Possible, a non-profit here in Milwaukee that works closely with students to support them throughout their college journey.

Our Community Engagement Coordinator, Laura Johnson, went down to Hamilton High School to check out the great work College Possible students and coaches are doing.

Take it away, Laura!

See you soon,

College Possible is a national access and success organization that came to Milwaukee in 2008, and is now serving over 800 students in 14 partner high schools. Their model is unique because they provide students with college coaching starting junior year, and then stay with them through college completion. To be admitted into the program, a student must be going into junior year, have a GPA of 2.0 or higher, be interested in college, and come from a low-income family. Once a student is admitted, the entire program is free.

I sat down with Abraham Ortiz, a Junior Coach at Hamilton High School, and one of his students Kejuan to hear a little bit more about the program.

Kejuan is a junior at Hamilton High School, and a College Possible student.

Why did you want to join College Possible?
I thought it’d give me a chance to go to college, and I didn’t just want to depend on my football abilities. I also think it will help me get scholarships.

I see you’re working on an application for a summer program in engineering, is that a field you’re pretty interested in?
Ya I have a slight interest in it. After my uncle passed away, I wanted to do more and became more interested in engineering. But I also have a dream of being a sports broadcaster, like on the news or something--some type of broadcasting.

What do you find most helpful about College Possible?
I just like the way that they take out the time to make sure we understand what we’re doing, so we can be more successful. They take out the time to help us with ACTs, like giving us short cuts, and just understanding the test overall. And that they give us the chance to practice it before, instead of just diving in the first time.

Abraham is a 2017 Marquette University grad, with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering, focusing in Mechanical Engineering and a concentration in Engineering Leadership.

How did you become a coach with College Possible?
Throughout the summer after graduation I was looking for work, and one of my friends had posted about becoming a college coach on Facebook. I had applied for Jesuit Volunteer Corps and had been looking at service positions, and this just came up on my radar. It sounded really cool. It sounded like something that was really interesting to me, especially because my senior year I really got interested in education and why, in the STEM profession, there is so little representation of different races and ethnicities.

As a Junior Coach, what does your job look like?
In the spring semester, we recruit a cohort of 40 sophomores to be in the program through senior year. And then throughout the year we focus on ACT, summer enrichment programs, and creating a top 5 college list so going into senior year they have an idea of what colleges would be a good fit for them, so that they can start applying right away. Senior coaches work with seniors to help with scholarships, FAFSA, college applications and programs before college.

What about your work do you find most helpful to students?
I would say the most helpful to my students is being a person they can talk to. The curriculum is great, and it’s all important for them to know, but I think, especially at Hamilton, having a person that went to college, helping them through anything they might need and just being there is the most that I can do in my role here. Having a relationship with students is the biggest part, and what I think they get the most out of.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far in your time as a college coach?
There’s good work going on at schools, and its important work, but sometimes we get caught up in the numbers. The biggest thing we need to keep in mind when we’re supporting students, is how our relationships and the language we use affects them. We can have all the resources, but if you don’t have the connection and you’re not taking your mind out of the numbers, you’re not going to be able to have the success that you want to see. Because the biggest thing, at least that I’ve experienced with my students, is the importance of building the relationship and then going from there. And just being understanding, because a lot of the times we stereotype students into different boxes, and we think we know what they’re going through but in reality, we don’t. I think we need to be more understanding and empathetic to the lives that our students are living. And of course, continue to advocate on their behalf, and go out and vote for people that are actually going to make a difference and positive impact on public education.

For more information about College Possible, visit their website here:

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