College Possible


College Possible Annual Report 



Your support meant 30,000 more low-income students were on the path to a college degree in 2017. Together, we can provide a coach for every low-income student.



That was the theme of the 2017 Kick Off, a week-long event College Possible holds each year in August. The purpose of Kick Off is to focus on our mission, orient our AmeriCorps members and energize our team for the college success campaign ahead. This year’s theme emphasized both the spirit of Kick Off and the spirit of College Possible. None of us could do our work without our colleagues, and our students would not have so many opportunities to excel without College Possible. So, together, College Possible and our students thrive.

This theme is just as relevant when we think about our relationship with you—our supporters. Without your continued financial support and ongoing advocacy, College Possible could not thrive. And I like to think that without our persistent commitment to ensuring all students have the opportunity to earn a college degree, you and your communities could not thrive.

I hope the stories of our students strengthen your commitment to our mission and our students. College Possible continues to adapt to and change with the world around us. What does not change, however, is our unfailing belief in the power of a college degree to change lives, to change communities and to bring an end to the cycle of poverty. Your support, coupled with our passionate AmeriCorps coaches, our dedicated staff and — most importantly —our incredible students, has created a nation-wide network of idealistic leaders who know that together, we thrive.

Laura Liu
College Possible Chief Operating Officer




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All in the family

Elizabeth, college possible portland

Senior year for College Possible high school students can be defined in two words: organized chaos. From applying to colleges, filling out financial aid forms and otherwise preparing for a huge life transition, these students accomplish a lot in just one year.

In the midst of all this, I noticed Elizabeth’s half-raised hand. Pausing by her desk, I patiently waited as she asked me a question about ACT fee waivers. Confused by the context and timing of the question, I reminded Elizabeth that she had already taken the ACT twice. Her scores were strong. Why did she want to take it again?

“It’s not for me,” she clarified, “It’s for my cousin, Anareli. She’s also a senior and I told her about what we’re doing in College Possible. She wants to apply to colleges too!”

“Bring your cousin to session!” I suggested enthusiastically.

Elizabeth paused before responding, “Actually, that’s the thing. She has a baby. She needs to take care of her after school. I was hoping if you explained it to me, I could help her out later.”

This honest admission became what I would soon see as Elizabeth’s own induction as a defacto College Possible coach.

In session and via text, I began to anticipate Elizabeth’s barrage of questions as information gathering to pass along to her cousin. At FAFSA night at school, I was able to watch as both Elizabeth and Anareli successfully submitted the FAFSA. During lunch, they came into the College Possible office so we could make follow-up calls to colleges. Behind the scenes, I know Elizabeth was going home from session and walking her cousin through the very processes that had overwhelmed her just a few months prior.

Soon, Elizabeth’s successes were reported alongside those of her cousin. Over Thanksgiving, Elizabeth sent me a celebratory text that she had been admitted to her first college. Anareli’s acceptance letter followed soon after.

As of now, Elizabeth has been accepted to three four-year colleges, and these amazing options will allow her to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse. Anareli has been accepted to the same colleges, also opening up a path to success.

It’s hard to convey the pride I feel watching Elizabeth be able to so directly impact the futures of her cousin and young niece. What our students learn goes beyond simply gaining college knowledge. Elizabeth has become a fierce advocate, a patient teacher and an unyielding support system in her own right.

Anareli isn’t in my College Possible cohort, but I feel her victories as acutely as I do those of the students who are on my roster. Stories like these only remind me that what we do in College Possible doesn’t just shape the futures of our own students: these successes ripple out and impact families and future generations.

And that’s not the end of the family story: Elizabeth’s younger sister just applied to join the newest College Possible cohort. She will soon follow her sister and cousin’s footsteps and be part of the college graduating class of 2023.





"I have the work ethic to do whatever I want"

Missy, College Possible Philadelphia

“I want to be a heart surgeon and open my own dance studio by age 20,” Upper Darby High School Senior Missy says with a vibrant determination.

From a very early age, Missy has had two constants in her life: dance and hospitals.

“I picked up dancing very young. My parents let me start going to dance classes at two or three.”

Many of Missy’s family members work in the medical field, and she has been inspired to pursue pre-medicine in college by all of the medical personnel that she has interacted with over the years. It’s a career that fulfills her passion for helping others and is also something she can see herself enjoying.

At such a young age, balancing these two very different dreams has been challenging and discouraging at times, leaving Missy to question her own capabilities. Things really began to turn around for Missy after meeting with her College Possible coach.

“Rachel has looked at my high school career and has seen that I have the work ethic to do whatever I want. I feel like I am back on track and I’m excited about the college search process.”

During a visit to Explore partner West Chester University, one of the many universities she is considering, Missy felt at home. “I can see myself there. They have a lot of clubs and organizations I see being a part of.”

Wherever Missy ends up and whichever career path she chooses to pursue—medicine, dance or something else entirely—she knows that her College Possible coach will be there to guide her.





Finding the right fit

Cammy, college possible chicago

Cammy’s college search began with two requirements: a strong creative writing program and a welcoming community. After touring several college campuses on her list, an overnight stay at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, made the aspiring writer feel at home.

“I love how friendly everyone is at Coe,” Cammy said. “I wanted a smaller school where I wasn’t just a number and I could really have a one-on-one experience with teachers.”

Cammy has been planning for college since her first College Possible session in high school, where she confidently announced, “I want to be the first of my siblings to attend a four-year university.”

She’s made that assertion a fact by her hard work and committed participation in College Possible’s high school programming, programming that led to a significant increase in her ACT score. That increase led to Coe awarding Cammy several scholarships, including the Trustees Scholarship of $20,000, which allowed her to join Coe’s class of 2021. As a current freshman, she is now officially on her way to earning a college degree.

The recent Bowen High School graduate instantly bonded with her roommate and quickly settled in to her new life. She often stays up at night playing Dance, Dance, Revolution with her friends and boasts of holding the high score among her friends.

Cammy is part of the first class of College Possible Chicago students to go to college. More than 80 percent of this first group of students— representing 2017 graduates from five Chicago Public Schools campuses — started college this fall with the help of their College Possible coaches.

Cammy feels supported by her coach, Erika. “It’s great to know I have someone to talk to about college. I know I can go to her with anything.”

With her first semester of classes underway, each day reaffirms Cammy’s dream of majoring in creative writing. Coe’s writing center was not only an asset that attracted Cammy to the school, but a resource her College Possible coach has helped her utilize.

“Cammy’s adjustment to Coe has been very rapid and beautiful… her positivity will come in handy during the tough days that college brings,” Erika said.

Cammy is just one of the 570 high school and college students supported by College Possible Chicago this year. For many, finding the right college is essential to making their college journey a successful one. Clearly, Cammy has found the right college to help her thrive and achieve her dreams.





"I will be a first-generation college student"

Friday, College Possible Omaha

For Omaha Northwest junior Friday Htoo, the support of family and friends has fueled his goal of going to college.

“I first learned about College Possible from a friend, and he motivated me to sign up,” Friday recalls. “I wanted to join because I want to make my parents proud and go to college. I will be a first generation college student.”

Outside of the classroom, Friday is actively involved in Northwest’s JROTC program. With a family history of ties to military service, Friday was encouraged to sign up.

“My uncle used to serve. It’s kind of like a family thing,” Friday proudly states. “My favorite parts are the lessons on time management and self-discipline.”  

Inside the classroom, Friday’s interests and career goals lie in mechanics and photography, yet his curiosity also extends to history.

“That’s what I look forward to most in college, studying mechanics and photography. I’m a hands-on person but I’m still discovering,” says Friday. “As of right now, my favorite class is modern world history, it’s interesting to learn how people develop and settle. These stories tell how people moved and settled to find a better place to live.”

For Friday, improving his life and the life of others in his community is a defining motivator.

“As a Karen-speaking youth today and a leader tomorrow, I will strive for the best,” Friday announces. “It’s giving back to the community. If I earn more money with a college degree, maybe I can help more.”


Building stronger communities

Ellen and Raul, College Possible Omaha Donors

As an alumna of Omaha Benson High School, Ellen Saldivar was inspired to support College Possible when she visited an after-school session. 

“It was wonderful to see so many students working hard for a successful future,” remembers Ellen. “The encounter reminded me of my high school days. It was not an easy task preparing all of the necessary papers.” 

In her own experience preparing for college, Ellen recalls the mountains of paperwork, the challenge of college entrance exams and the search for financial aid. 

“It was a lonely situation but I was determined to make it,” said Ellen. “I didn’t have the introduction these students are experiencing. It makes that transition so much easier.” 

Ellen was not alone in her experience as her husband, Raul, also had to navigate college preparation on his own. Both attended college in Nebraska: Ellen graduated from University of Nebraska Omaha and Raul from University of Nebraska Kearney. 

“We were both the first generation in our families to go to college and receive degrees. The assistance College Possible gives to their students is invaluable. This is a path of making a stronger community.” 

Ellen and Raul support College Possible because they value community support and paying it forward for others -- and in the program itself.

“A bachelor’s degree is the key to success in the future for these students,” adds Ellen. “Many of the College Possible graduates receive scholarships to aid in their success in college, and through their success they will want to help others in the future.” 






"College Possible is the foundation of my college experience"

Linda, College Possible Minnesota






"I will continue to pave the way for others like me"

Mayra, College Possible Milwaukee

Six years ago, when Mayra Alaniz transferred to South Division High School at the end of sophomore year, she didn’t know how she would make college a reality.

“I felt like I was almost hopeless,” she said.

A fellow student encouraged her to apply for College Possible and changed the course of her life. Mayra was admitted to the program and quickly bonded with her coach Matt Coombs who saw something remarkable in her.

“Mayra rejects any temptation to settle for mediocre work and pursues excellence in all that she does,” Matt said of his former student.

That drive and ambition pushed Mayra to reach for the most challenging college experience she could find. With guidance from Matt, she submitted her application to the Gates Millennium Scholarship. This prestigious scholarship covers all unmet financial need for all four years of college to only 1,000 students nationwide.  

As Mayra waited to hear back from the Gates Millennium Scholars Program she worked with Matt to find colleges that would challenge her academically and further develop her skills.

“As a student, Mayra possessed the ambitious, yet caring, characteristics of an innate leader,” said Matt.

Those qualities, on top of her impressive academic record, distinguished Mayra from her peers. She was awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship and would have full financial support to her attend her dream school, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

In the spring of 2017, Mayra achieved her dream and graduated with a degree in government.

 “If it wasn’t for College Possible I really don’t know what those four years would have looked like or what resources would, or would not, have come my way," said Mayra.

Resources are important to Mayra. During her four years at Georgetown she worked for the university’s pre-college program helping Washington, D.C.’s low-income students with dreams of college.

Now, Mayra has returned to Milwaukee with a renewed desire to contribute to the city she calls home.

Mayra is putting her degree to work as an Associate with Mueller Communications. She helps a diverse portfolio of clients with everything from crisis management to public relations and she loves her job.

“It’s a great fit. This is everything I was looking for,” said Mayra. “It worked out really well for me.”

Mayra is grateful for finding something that aligned so perfectly with her skills, abilities and natural curiosity. After exploring internships with non-profits, government and journalism she settled on communications consulting.

“Throughout college I became increasingly interested in the business perspective,” she said.

Mayra’s job is helping her explore parts of Milwaukee she didn’t know existed. And as she adapts to the new challenges of her job she continues to make time to support others.

“I will continue to learn and pave the way for others like me," she said.

Mayra is giving back to Milwaukee by mentoring other College Possible students and sharing her experiences with those who need that extra push to reach higher.  

She credits her time in College Possible and her coach Matt with instilling in her the confidence to be successful—in both college and her career.

“I needed College Possible,” she said. “Matt helped me feel prepared for college, which gave me the legitimacy to then go into the workforce and prove that I can do this.”