College Beyond Students take Capitol Hill!

College Beyond’s founding college success coach, Erica Martinez, and four New Orleans students traveled to Capitol Hill to learn about advocacy and speak with congressional leaders about key educational topics. Three of the students attend University of New Orleans, and one attends Southeastern Louisiana University. The four students are all first-generation college students, and are active on their respective campuses. College Beyond is thankful to the National College Access Network (NCAN) for providing the funding for the students to travel to Washington, D.C. NCAN works to empower communities that are committed to college access for all. They aim to ensure all students, especially those who are underrepresented, can achieve their educational dreams through a higher education institution.

Read more about the College Beyond students and their experience in Washington D.C. in this and Big Easy Magazine feature!

2018 Impact Report: Closing the Freshman Retention Gap

 The College Beyond team is delighted to share our third annual Impact Report, which contains exciting news: last year, College Beyond’s students closed the freshman retention gap at the University of New Orleans, increasing retention by more than 20 percentage points.

As this year’s report details, closing the retention gap is hugely meaningful in the lives of the individual students we serve — but it also changes the narrative about what is possible in our city more broadly.

Download the full report here.

None of this would be possible without the students, families, staff, board members, and supporters who invest their time, hearts, and resources in this work every day. Many thanks and kudos to all for your dedication!




Paris Woods Joins Pahara NextGen Fellowship Cohort

Our executive director, Paris Woods, was selected to participate in the Fall 2018 cohort of the Pahara NextGen Fellowship this year. Pahara is a 12-month leadership program that equips leaders to strengthen and shape the future of the educational excellence and equity movement. It is important to cultivate and support leaders who represent communities that are currently not well served by our public schools. The fellowship is an amazing opportunity that will equip individuals to amplify underrepresented voices and support those who will become senior leaders in the educational field. Click here to learn more about Pahara.


College Beyond Beyond Welcomes Michelle Anaba and Jourdan Clark

Michelle and Jourdan joined our team this past September, and we are delighted to have them with us. Michelle Anaba is an Americorps Vista member who is our current Operations Systems and Program Implementation Designer. Michelle will be evaluating data and performing program planning and evaluation. She also assists the college success coach with contacting and engaging with students. She graduated from Towson University with a degree in Community Health and relocated New Orleans to fulfill her passion for helping underserved communities.

Jourdan Clark is a senior and Mass Communications Major at Dillard University, and has joined our team as a Social Media and Communications Intern. She will be managing our marketing, branding, and public relations efforts. She also works under College Beyond board member Malana Joseph Mitchell, who is an award-winning public relations and brand strategist and current Vice President at the Spears Group.

College Beyond Has a New Location!

College Beyond has moved! We are now located at the Taylor Education Center in New Orleans’ Warehouse District. We are excited to be located on 4.0 Schools’ floor with other nonprofits doing amazing work in New Orleans. Our new address is:

College Beyond

612 Andrew Higgins Blvd, 3rd Floor

New Orleans, LA 70130



Dr. Keisha Smith Joins College Beyond Board

College Beyond is delighted to welcome local data and analytics expert Dr. Keisha Smith to our Board of Directors.

A New Orleans native, Dr. Smith currently serves as the Director of Products and Publications for The Data Center. She has worked in organizational design and evaluation for over ten years, including serving on projects for the U.S. Department of Education, Drexel University, Walgreens, and the National Institute of Health, and has more than seven years of experience as a non-profit leader focused on systems thinking and strategic planning.

Dr. Smith holds a B.S. in Biology from Xavier University of Louisiana and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Research from Louisiana State University.

EdLoC Boulder Fund Selects College Beyond as One of Six Inaugural Grantees

We are honored to share that the national non-profit organization Education Leaders of Color, or EdLoc, has selected College Beyond’s Paris Woods as one of six inaugural recipients of awards from their Boulder Fund.

The award includes a $150,000 grant which will be used in 2018 to support student-level program innovation.

Check out the Boulder Fund video about College Beyond’s work!

Learn more about EdLoc and the Boulder Fund here.

Meet Donte Burks: UNO Freshman & Artist

Donte Burks, University of New Orleans

College Beyond’s AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, Quinn McLeese, sat down with Donte Burks, a student in the College Beyond group of freshmen at the University of New Orleans. Donte is an aspiring artist and photographer, and he shared some of the struggles and triumphs that he has experienced over the course of his first semester in college.

Check out Donte’s artwork December 13th at New Orleans Holiday RAWk 2017! See below for details.

What made you choose UNO, and what are you studying there?

“The number one reason was the diversity that the school offers. It’s important to expose myself to a place with a lot of different people. It gives me a chance to learn new things, and also be around people who can relate to me and who I am. The second reason was the art department. I’ve seen the work of artists with ties to the school in galleries and museums around the city. I toured it all, saw all the studios and really did my research on the place.”

What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome so far this semester?

“My English professor is a harsh grader, so it’s been tough to make that adjustment. It’s going to make me a better writer in the long term, but getting some bad grades on papers early on shakes your confidence a little. I’ve learned that ‘consistency is key’. We’ve worked on setting up a success plan moving forward, so I’m going to work to stick to that.”

“I’ve learned that ‘consistency is key’. We’ve worked on setting up a success plan moving forward, so I’m going to work to stick to that.”

How about your best memory or accomplishment?

“I’m learning how to manage my time and myself. Right now that includes juggling an internship at the New Orleans Juvenile Justice Center along with all my classes and my art projects. I’ve realized that I can take my job skills on the professional side and apply them to my craft. I’m gaining independence and professionalism by learning organization, budgeting, and communication skills. That’s going to put me far ahead of my peers and allow me to successfully manage my career going forward.”

Tell me more about your photography projects.

“I’ve exhibited some of my paintings at different spots in the past. I love taking pictures that are momentous and memorable to me personally, like self-portraits, pictures of my friends, and shots of the cityscapes around town.”

When did you know that art was going to be your calling?

“It started when I was 8 years old, just playing around listening to and making some music. Then in 2011 I really started to draw, sketch and paint, all sorts of different things. 2014 is when I really started getting into photography. I have a Canon EOS Rebel T-6 that I use now, so it’s a real quality, professional level camera. Artists like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Dapper Bruce Lafitte have really inspired me to keep working on my craft.”

What exactly is this exhibition coming up on December 13th?

“It’s called Holiday RAWk 2017, and it’s going to be at Republic NOLA over in the Warehouse District. The showing is put on through RAWartists, which is an international collaboration of artists. I’ll be sampling a little bit of everything from my work. There will be other artists as well getting their work out there.”

Do you have any advice for the seniors who are starting to look at schools and make decisions for the fall?

“Apply for scholarships, any and all of them. You don’t even have to apply to the high end ones. Even the small ones get you some kind of money at least. Also, take tours, see the school in person and try to get a familiar view of the place. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ve got to overcome your anxiety and negativity. It’ll be lonely at first, but one person being nice or opening up can change all that.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Will your passion and career intersect?

“I’m going to have a house and a lifetime job (hopefully as an art director or photojournalist). What’s the point of getting into something that isn’t right for you? I want to have something that makes me happy and lets me be me.”

You can see Donte’s work on December 13th at Republic NOLA, 828 S. Peters Street. Doors are at 7 p.m. and tickets are $22 ahead of time or $30 day of show. There will be a host of other artists, photographers and musicians on display that evening. More details at the website: New Orleans Holiday RAWk 2017.

College Beyond’s work is made possible through the generous support of our donors and their belief in the capacity of the young people in our city. Learn more about our community of support on our Supporters page.

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