You, Too, Can Be A Voice In Their Postsecondary Story

By Melody Lipford, College Advising Corps Adviser at the University of Virginia

Growing up in Appalachia definitely had its upside!

As a College Advising Corps adviser, I know the challenges many students face when it comes to accessing higher education. Growing up as a low-income, first-generation student in Appalachia came with its own unique experience that was both challenging and rewarding. As for many low-income students, a college-going culture is not as easily accessible, especially in rural communities. I was grateful for the hard work and sacrifices that my parents made but knew the harder I worked in school the greater the opportunities I would have after I graduated.

A life-changing part of my story happened as a freshman in high school when I joined my local Upward Bound program with Appalachian State University. This program was vital in preparing me for college, providing me with opportunities to take part in campus tours, stay at App State during the summer to take classes, and even an opportunity to volunteer in a Jewish kosher soup kitchen in Brooklyn, New York.

Without help from my Upward Bound academic coordinator, Kim Grater, or my “fairy

I affectionately call Kim Grater my “fairy godmother” because she helped me to where I am today.

godmother” as I call her, I would not have had the help I needed to go to college. When I was a sophomore in high school she introduced me to the “Bonner Scholars” program. This program provides 100% financial aid to first-generation and low-income students. In exchange, recipients are asked to serve as volunteers throughout their time in college. I began preparing my resume and volunteered as much as I could. Thankfully, I was accepted to Emory & Henry College’s Bonner Scholar scholarship program.

Little did I know my life would be forever changed because of one meeting I had with a college access professional during my sophomore year of high school. During my time as a Bonner Scholar, I was afforded the opportunity to volunteer in New York City, study abroad as a volunteer ESL teacher in Costa Rica, and more.

What made it all the more special was being able to invite and show gratitude to my “fairy godmother”, Kim Grater, at my Emory & Henry College

Senior Awards. She brought my Upward Bound application essay to me as a reminder of how far I had come from that student with whom she would meet in the library to talk about a dream of going to college.

My best advice for College Advising Corps advisers is to never underestimate the power of an intentional one-on-one meeting with your students. Take it from me, you never know how it might change a student’s life when you become a voice in their postsecondary story.

Melody Lipford serves as a College Advising Corps adviser at the UVA. She advises students at two high schools in rural Virginia. Melody, the first in her family to go to college, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Emory & Henry College. If you would like to support the ongoing work of advisers, like Melody, please visit Donate. If you are a recent college graduate and are interested in serving as a college adviser, visit Become An Adviser.