Success Coach Spotlight: Courri Brady

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Courri’s personal trajectory inspires him
to help others achieve their college degree.

I wasn’t “supposed” to make it. Society had told me—and others who looked like me—the chances of making it to college was slim. Despite the accelerated rate at which I had learned and performed inside the classroom, countless academic counselors questioned whether I had what it takes to thrive, or even survive, at the next level.

I remember clear as day, one middle-aged Caucasian woman–a middle school admissions counselor for a rigorous public school in southern California–telling my mom, “so many students like your son do well academically before they come here, but aren’t successful in their transition.”

I was offended. “She didn’t know me, so how could she judge my potential?” Then I remembered what my aunt had mentioned to me since I was 7 years old:

You can do whatever you want to do. You can be the first in our family to go and graduate from college. Other people will say you can’t do it, but you can!

Her voice, echoed constantly by my mother’s, stayed in my head as I navigated middle and high school, thriving in the accelerated learning programs. It impacted how I spoke, studied, and viewed myself as a young black man in America. My adult-self appreciates the guidance I received as I worked to shift the perception of higher education for my family. My aunt was especially influential here, making me promise time and time again that I would show resolve and make college a reality.

My family taught me that hard work and drive are necessary to “be somebody” and survive in this world. My aunt had come to symbolize hard work and honor for our family through her vision, success in her career at the U.S. Postal service, and her no-nonsense approach to making things happen; for me, she was the epitome of “strength”.

The summer before my sophomore year in high school, I learned that even the strongest and most driven people can fall. My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her prognosis was not promising. Though she battled the cancer with chemo, radiation, and a double mastectomy, doctors had given her only months to live. As she began to say her goodbyes, I distinctly remember my aunt using what must have been all of her strength to pull me to her bedside. It was there, on her deathbed, where she asked me to promise her that I would go to college and graduate…for myself and for our family. Teary-eyed, I not only promise that I’d go to college, I promised to go to UCLA—a great school near home to signal quite clearly that “we can do this!” to my family—and that I would graduate.

Just one year later, after the exhausting college application process had concluded, I came home to find the mail strewn on the ground near our mail slot. I turned over a large envelope addressed to me with my four favorite letters: UCLA. I delivered on one promise I made to my aunt. I got into a great (really, the best) school, and could now work to fulfill my promise of finding a way to graduate.

Navigating a large institution like UCLA was not easy, but I received sound advice from several university administrators with backgrounds similar to mine. They stressed the importance of finding mentors, and—most important for me to hear—to not solely look for mentors who were also Black. I gravitated towards student involvement through residence life, a student affairs field abundant in caring, giving mentors and advisers. The advice, coaching, and development I received from these wonderful souls who did not look like me was simply transformative for me. It was through these experiences that I knew that I wanted to be able to coach and help others in a similar way. I’d experienced the benefits of having people believe in and challenge me. It’s real, and I’m not sure how I would have made it through to graduation without them.

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June 19, 2004 is the day I looked to the heavens to thank my aunt for all she had done for and meant to me. Walking across the stage as a college graduate was a testament to the love and guidance she instilled in me since childhood. My mom and I wept in remembrance of her. We then looked at one another as to say, “It’s time do something with this accomplishment.”

My success at UCLA allowed me an opportunity to challenge and support students at Chico State University for nearly seven years as a higher education administrator while concurrently earning an MBA. I then leveraged my degree to get a job working at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in executive education. After three years of supporting the on-going learning for corporate executives of Fortune 1000 companies, I now have experiences working directly with corporate leaders conducting strategic communications consulting. In each of my professional roles since 2004 I have been committed to finding ways to support the lifelong learning.

It is this culmination of experiences that has brought me to ReUp Education. My career success simply would not have been possible without getting to and through college to earn my degree. I understand firsthand how valuable and impactful it can be emotionally and financially. As a college success coach, it’s now my turn to help others begin to find both meaning and value through their own collegiate journey.

Success Coach Spotlight: Janelle Viruet

janelle-viruet-3Janelle is one of the dedicated Success Coaches
for
Bellevue University.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello, my name is Janelle! I’m a proud and native New Yorker. I was born and raised in Brooklyn where I attended public school. I have always had an undying passion and commitment to giving back to my community and helping others find their way. Growing up in a working class family taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic and following my dreams.

During the early stages of my career I worked and attended college full-time earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Long Island University and a master’s degree in Counseling from Pace University. Having the opportunity to jumpstart my career in the Human Resources field at a hospital allowed me to realize the importance of understanding others and being resourceful.

Motivated to find more meaningful work, I landed a job at a nonprofit called Year Up where I helped low-income young adults develop the personal and professional skills necessary to launch careers in the corporate world. It was very fulfilling work!

Through my experience in the human resources industry and work at Year Up, I discovered that I love helping people figure out their personal and professional pursuits. Since then, I’ve earned certification in professional career coaching and have started a small coaching business where I support professionals in transition, help high school students identify college majors, and help young professionals create career plans. You can see why I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the ReUp Education team – I get to love what I do while helping students return to college and pursue their dreams for a degree.

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Janelle with her family at her college graduation.

 

What’s your college journey story?

I’m the first person in my family to graduate with a 4-year degree. I’m the youngest of two siblings. My Dad has an associate’s. My Mom only has her high school degree.

My family was emotionally supportive throughout the college application process, but I was pretty much on my own. As a first generation college student, I didn’t have anyone in my immediate family who understood the process. I’m fortunate for the great guidance counselors who believed in my potential and navigated me through it all.

My college journey wasn’t easy. I worked full-time and studied full-time, paying my way through college. I needed money for textbooks and transportation since I didn’t want to financially burden my parents. At one point, I had to transition to working full-time to be able to afford tuition and related expenses.

Graduating with my bachelors degree took me five years. It’s one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. I’m proud of the challenges I overcame and the internal motivation that pushed me to stick to my commitment.

What inspires you about college re-enrollment?

A degree is an investment that just keeps on giving: it increases your salary potential, opens wide open doors of opportunity, leads to a better life for you and your family. I’m inspired by individuals who are ready to return to college and take the challenge head-on.

What advice do you have for students considering re-enrollment?

One thing I’ve certainly learned in my life: If you want something, you have to work for it. I’m a strong believer that anything is possible. Obstacles are part of the challenge – they’re necessary road bumps that require grit, determination, and motivation.

In partnership with ReUp, you’ll have a Success Coach like me by your side – every step of the way. We are committed to your success. You’re not alone! All it takes is the first step.

Success Coach Spotlight: Cody Rapp

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Say hello to Cody Rapp!

Cody is from a small college town in western Pennsylvania called Clarion. The very same town that Clarion University – a ReUp partner – calls home. Cody has strong roots in Clarion, having graduated from the town’s public schools as well as college. Throughout his time in Clarion, he was also able to serve the community through his role at the Chamber of Business and Industry.

“I love being from Clarion! It has taught me the importance of small-town values, and I take them with me wherever I go,” Cody shares. “Everyone knows everyone. That’s something you can’t find everywhere.” Clarion is Cody’s community, campus, and childhood home.

Cody is one of ReUp Education’s founding College Success Coaches, helping Clarion University students re-enroll and pursue their dream for a college degree, every step of the way. Let’s get to know Cody a little bit more.

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Cody at his college graduation.

Q: What’s your college journey story?

I honestly wouldn’t have it made it through college if I did not have strong-willed and supportive mentors – my first boss from my campus work-study job, Erin, and my leadership advisor, Kelly. Both mentors nudged me to both discover myself, articulate my aspirations, and tap into my leadership skills. They pushed me to succeed.

With support, sacrifices, and personal determination, I graduated from Clarion University early, and with multiple leadership and internship experiences under my belt. Shortly after, I attended Canisius College, in Buffalo, NY to pursue my masters in higher education. It really was my college experience inspired me to pursue student affairs as a career.

I had realized that during my time at Clarion I was inspired to give back to people in ways that I had the privilege of being groomed and developed. Pursuing a career path in student affairs and higher education just seemed like the right fit for my skills and my personality. My time in college allowed me to imagine, discover, and to be who I want to be, and now I strive to help students do the same for themselves.

Q: How would you describe ReUp Education to a stranger?

ReUp’s mission is to make people’s college dreams a reality. This isn’t an understatement. The services ReUp offers are transformational. We are able to work with students hand-in-hand to help students eliminate barriers to enrollment and help them find success and happiness throughout their degree completion and job preparation.

I’m also incredibly excited at the opportunity to be a College Success Coach for Clarion University and support students’ re-enrollment journey.

Q: What inspires you about college re-enrollment?

I believe higher education is the gatekeeper for dream careers and lifestyles.

Re-enrollment is a second chance to make a college degree a reality. I understand that re-enrollment is a risk, but through ReUp Education, we can work together to overcome any and all obstacles. To quote Something the Lord Made, one of my favorite movies:

“Where you see risk, I see opportunity.”

Q: What advice do you have for students considering re-enrollment?

Everything about our life is a choice. Getting up in the morning is a choice. Going to work is a choice. What you eat throughout the day is a choice. We make millions of choices every day.

Returning to school is a life-changing choice. Earning that coveted college degree is a choice. The possibilities you see for yourself is what tips the scale. Trust yourself – make the decision that best aligns with your goals and aspirations.

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m a Health Coach and Certified Fitness Instructor. I believe that part of life is personal discovery. When I was introduced to health and fitness, I saw it as a way to development my mind and body, but what I really found was a network of people who are committed to better health, better families, and to put it simply, better ways of living. Who doesn’t want to live better, right?

I have found my time as a coach and instructor to be tremendously rewarding not only for what I have accomplished personally, but moreso because of the people I have helped to change for the better. There are so many people in this world who need to feel like someone believes in them, who want their self-confidence back, and who need a second change.

I love spreading messages of hope and happiness to so many people through my coaching.

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Retention – Putting the Truth to Work

These six truths will mean different things to different campuses – certainly, in your environment, you will know best how to convert the truth into action to drive improved retention.  Here are some questions to ask your leadership team that may help point the way to new initiatives, or modifications to current programs, in order to increase student engagement and retention:

Truth One: Some students leave, no matter what you do

  • Take inventory of your retention initiatives (particularly those that cost meaningful time or money). How many of them are aimed at keeping students who would stay anyway?  Are any focused on “saving” students that are likely to leave, no matter what?
  • What is in place to identify key risk factors and raise flags when students show signs of struggle? How many of those programs specifically focus on the unique conditions for very new students?

Read more

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Retention Myth #6

Myth #6: Our processes and initiatives make all the difference

The Truth? The campus culture is likely the single biggest influence on retention (and employment) outcomes.

If your campus culture is student focused – which includes a concerted effort across the campus to ensure great employment outcomes, engaging classroom experiences and an attitude of always doing what’s best for the student – you will enjoy higher retention rates, and you will see more word-of-mouth referral leads.

If, on the other hand, your culture doesn’t always put the student first, and/or you have political in-fighting, a culture of fear and retribution, or a culture that doesn’t reinforce and support employment outcomes – students will sense this, and they will not be loyal to your programs.

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The six retention myths are part of an article that I wrote for Career Education Review.  Click here to download the full PDF of the article.

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Retention Myth #5

Myth #5: More data is better

The Truth?  Measure what matters (and only what matters) – then act.

Time and again we find an inbox full of spreadsheets, narratives and charts. The challenge is that very few people have been trained to convert the data they receive into actionable information.  The temptation is strong to measure everything, and generate report after report.  In an efficient, effective operation, there are only two reasons to track numbers:

  1. Because you are required to by law or by your accrediting/regulatory agencies
  2. To inform action that creates positive change

If you want to get more effective with data, try this exercise: Read more

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Retention Myth #4

Myth #4: It takes time to figure out who is really at risk

The Truth? Students often tell us that they are going to struggle through important signals – even before classes start.

One of our clients asked us to look at all of their first-term drops for a period of time.  What we discovered was that 100% of those students that dropped out during the first term, or failed to return for the second term, either missed or did poorly on their first assignment in at least one class.

That means that the school knew within 10 days of the start of class, which students were at risk.  Read more

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Retention Myth #3

Myth #3: Our biggest attrition problem is Attendance!

The Truth?  No one drops out of school because of attendance!  They all stop attending because of something else.

Attendance (or lack thereof), is a symptom, not an outcome in and of itself.  If students fail to come to class it is because of some other force at work.  It could be their busy life, their lack of motivation, their boring teachers, or anxiety over their ability to be successful (or any of dozens of other reasons).

Too often, we see schools that consider “current attendance” one of their key success measures – but tracking attendance is only helpful if you are also taking steps to understand why students don’t attend.  Read more

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Retention Myth #2

Myth #2: Effective student retention is expensive

The Truth?  There are countless proven, high-impact initiatives that are free, or very low cost.

Yes, there are expensive initiatives that work.  But there are also a number of FREE things that you can do at your campus to impact student satisfaction, engagement, and retention.  This became most apparent in a focus group we conducted on a campus in Chicago some years ago in an interview with a group of students that had persisted to graduation.  When we asked what motivated them to stay, consistently the answers included, “because [my instructor(s)] believed in me.” Read more

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The Six Retention Myths – Myth #1

This series was originally crafted for Career Education Review (click here to download a PDF of the full article) – it’s worth revisiting here as we embark on the ReUp Education journey.  Colleges and Universities around the world find that too many of their students are dropping out – never to return.  For those students, they have all the […]