College Beyond Bids Farewell to Paris Woods

Nearly five years after its founding, College Beyond’s Board and team are wishing a fond farewell to Co-founder and Executive Director Paris Woods.

Outgoing Co-founder and Executive Director Paris Woods

Under Woods’s leadership, College Beyond forged a landmark partnership with the University of New Orleans. Through rigorous, data-driven and student-responsive programming, College Beyond closed the first-year retention gap between its participants–students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds in New Orleans–and the overall student population at UNO.

“I am very proud of the outcomes we have achieved through the tireless effort of our students and the dedication of our staff at College Beyond and our partners at UNO,” said Paris Woods. “Together, we are changing the narrative about what is possible in our city.”

“We are incredibly grateful for Paris’s leadership and impact as Co-founder and Executive Director of College Beyond,” said Board Chair Ben Kleban. “We have been inspired by her commitment to excellence and ability to tackle any challenge. Having raised nearly a million dollars in support of local youth, Paris has built an organization that fills a unique and highly needed role in the college access landscape of our city.”

Woods and co-founder, Sarah Payne, were selected to participate in several local nonprofit incubators including the 4.0 Schools Essentials and Launch programs, and the Propeller Startup and Growth accelerators. Woods tied for 1st place in the 2015 PitchNOLA Education competition, helped College Beyond become 1 of 6 inaugural recipients of the national Boulder Fund, and is a current member of the national Pahara NextGen Fellowship cohort.

“Our model is unique because it is open-access, and our students have proven that with adequate support, they are just as capable of succeeding in college as their more advantaged peers,” Woods added. “And none of this would be possible without the leading support of partners like the GPOA Foundation, Entergy Charitable Foundation, Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), the RosaMary, Keller, and Mary Freeman Wisdom family foundations, Pro Bono Publico, and the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust, who know that the future of New Orleans depends upon investing in the success of our most vulnerable youth today.”

Woods’s tenure in New Orleans college access work began as Director of Alumni Support at Cohen College Prep High School, where her efforts resulted in Cohen becoming the #1 open enrollment high school sending students to college. At Cohen, Woods helped 100% of students complete the FAFSA and was later selected to serve on the state’s Financial Aid Working Group, whose work helped Louisiana become the #1 state for FAFSA submissions nationwide.

College Beyond wishes Paris the very best in her future endeavors and looks forward to expanding the impact of its mission to help local students enroll and succeed in college.

Baptist Community Ministries Makes 3-Year Investment

College Beyond is delighted to announce that local philanthropic foundation Baptist Community Ministries (BCM) has made a $300,000, 3-year grant to College Beyond through its Transom Grants program.

BCM’s milestone gift supports program development and expansion of services for eligible first- and second-year students at the University of New Orleans.

Founded in 1995, Baptist Community Ministries is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in Louisiana, serving five parishes in the Greater New Orleans Region. Learn more about BCM here.

Kresge Foundation Grant will Expand the College Beyond Program at UNO

The Kresge Foundation will provide a $75,000 grant to supplement the University of New Orleans and College Beyond partnership. College Beyond has been supporting students on the UNO campus since 2016. With this grant from the Kresge Foundation, College Beyond will be able to support up to 100 additional UNO students in its coaching program during the upcoming school year. Read more here !

Welcome, Mia Gonzales Washington!

College Beyond is delighted to welcome Mia Gonzales Washington to our team.

A New Orleans native, Mia comes to College Beyond with more than a decade of experience educating and coaching New Orleans students in K-12 and higher education institutions. She joins the organization as a College Success Coach focused on supporting our students at the University of New Orleans.

You can learn more about Mia on our Who We Are page.

Welcome, Mia!

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.