Listen. Believe. Invest.
Aiyah Josiah-Faeduwor is a second-year adviser at Brown University College Advising Corps.
As college advisers, our role is to look at everything our students bring to the table, empower them to believe in their capabilities, and advocate for them in every way and space we can. We provide choice to the choice-less and voices to the voiceless.
Our students, typically described as “at-risk,” often don’t realize they are truly “at-promise.” The support of college advisers who acknowledge, respect, and recognize who our students are beyond their test scores and transcripts can transform how students view their potential and future. Effective advising requires listening to our students’ stories, building reservoirs of trust with our students and school communities, as well as seeking and providing resources far beyond their radars.
I see myself in many of my students. I was the first of my siblings to graduate high school. My two older brothers dropped out and succumbed to the pressures and allure of lifestyle that had been the norm in my inner city neighborhood of Dorchester, MA. Despite being raised by a Sierra Leonean single-father who had amassed five degrees from three colleges throughout his lifetime, his strict discipline and high expectations were not enough to ensure all his children would also achieve academic success. However, knowing I had two younger sisters who looked up to me as their role model, I knew I could not follow in my brothers’ footsteps.
I held this story to my chest throughout high school. I didn’t want to feel ashamed of my brothersor have anyone worry about my own safety or influences around me. However, my AP English teacher was the one who took it upon herself to delve into who I was beyond my academics. She listened to me, believed in me, and invested in me. Ultimately, it was she who encouraged me to believe in myself and my ability. Empowered by her influence, I expanded my horizons, applied to three Ivy League schools, and was admitted to and attended Brown University.
Today, as a college adviser, I am constantly reflective of that bond, that moment, and that impact my teacher had on me. With every student of mine, I strive to make the connection, which for many students, happens to be the first true connection they make with an adult outside of their families.
I see myself in many of my students. Anthony was one of those students. When I reflect upon of Anthony’s story, it reminds me of my own in many ways. As the only male in his family and the youngest child, there was immense pressure on him to succeed yet not much direction to show him how. His older sisters had gone to college, but as a young male of color, his experience in school had been starkly different. I met Anthony while he was a “C” average high school student. Serious, yet not seemingly motivated, he spent much of his time beatboxing in the hallways. One day, I rhythmically communicated to him, “If he didn’t get to class and calculate his math, the self-fulfilling prophecy will most certainly come to pass.” Impressed with my lyrical cadence, Anthony and I connected immediately. I had his respect, and I gave him mine.
Anthony was in my office the next day. He continued to come to my office after graduating high school and throughout his first semester of community college. He opened up to me, and thus, I listened, believed, and invested in him. He went from a member of a pack of relatively unmotivated students to by far once of my most ambitious and hard working students.
Throughout his senior year of high school and freshmen year of community college, I have remained Anthony’s adviser and mentor. I am proud of all he has accomplished today. He has been accepted to the Talent Development Program of the University of Rhode Island where he will be joining many of his high school peers in the fall.
My experience as a college adviser has been incredibly impactful in shaping my plans for next year. I am seeking an opportunity within the realm of education policy here in Rhode Island prior to pursuing a master’s degree in Urban Planning.