Rosalia Polanco is a first-year adviser serving with the Davidson College Advising Corps at Starmount High School in Yadkin County.
By Rosalia Polanco
College Advising Corps
My journey with College Advising Corps began with my memory of my own high school experience. I wanted to advise because of how lost I felt going through the college process. As a first-generation immigrant, the college landscape was a space that I could not have navigated without my college counselor. In the heart of Harlem, New York, having a counselor solely dedicated to college was a privilege – one that I will never take for granted. As I always like to say, it seemed as if my college counselor knew me better than I knew myself at the time and helped me realize my potential.
Now that my first year as an adviser is coming to an end, I am realizing more and more that I advise for several additional reasons. At my small high school in rural North Carolina, I am the only Latinx person on staff, even though the Hispanic/Latinx student population is the second-highest. Close to half of our students are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch, and many will also be the first in their families to attend college. Despite all of the challenges and setbacks my students face, there is a drive to succeed. Ultimately, I advise to show my students that going to college can be done. I advise to be able to provide resources they did not know were out there. I advise to demystify the college application process.
Toward the end of February, I was honored to represent College Advising Corps at the National College Access Network’s Creating Conversations: The New Congress and Our Students, alongside another fellow adviser and our regional director for North Carolina and Virginia. Attending this event was important to me because it placed an emphasis on advocating for our students. I had the privilege of meeting with Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, who represents my high school’s district. She knew our county well, which helped to frame our conversation.
Rural areas face unique challenges: Limited resources (including limited academic rigor) and lack of exposure to different types of postsecondary opportunities adversely shape a high school student’s journey in developing their plans. In our meeting with Congresswoman Foxx, we were able to talk about the importance of match and fit, the value of community colleges, and the importance of presenting multiple postsecondary options. At the end of the day, the message was to remember that what might be best for one student might not be best for another, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to engage in such a conversation.
We gathered for a picture before concluding our meeting, and I of course insisted that Congresswoman Foxx stand in the center. What she said in response will always stick with me: “No, no, you stand in the middle. You’re the star here.” As busy college access professionals, we can sometimes forget how important we are to our students and the futures we are shaping. Even if it means positively influencing the life of just one student, we must always remember that our work is valuable and needed.