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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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Announcing our 2017 Impact Report

2017 was a big year at College Beyond.

We launched our first year of full-time, independent college success coaching, and partnered with five high schools to support financial aid and summer enrollment.

We got to work closely with 45 incredible college freshmen.

We enrolled more than 500 students in our summer melt prevention campaign, to make sure students don’t drop out of the college process before they ever get to campus.

We expanded our team and our Board, and strengthened our organizational capacity.

Together, we made a difference in the lives of young people.

And as the year draws to a close, we are excited to share our 2017 Impact Report.

Designed by Heartsleeve and photographed by Gigsy — like us, social enterprises based in New Orleans — the report shares personal stories and org-wide results from the past year.

In it, you’ll hear from our students, team, and Board, learn more about what sets our work apart, and get a sense of the community that makes our work possible.

Take a look here, and let us know what you think. We hope you enjoy it!

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.

Join in our mission by making a tax-deductible donation today.

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Exec. Dir. Profiled in St. Charles Avenue

Local magazine St. Charles Avenue recently chatted with Executive Director Paris Woods about our mission, her path to the work of educational equity, and the impact we are having here in New Orleans. We’re so grateful for the chance to share more about our programs!

For the full article, click here.

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.

Join in our mission by making a tax-deductible donation today.

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Major Grant from Entergy Supports Local College Student Success

The Entergy Charitable Foundation has announced a $100,000 grant to College Beyond in support of its college success coaching program at the University of New Orleans in the 2017-2018 school year.

“We are so grateful for Entergy’s commitment to post-secondary success for students from our community,” said College Beyond Executive Director Paris Woods. “This gift will directly support our local college success program, which is currently reaching more than 75 incoming freshmen at UNO. These are students from New Orleans public high schools, and we are excited to work with them as they make the transition to college.”

An early supporter of College Beyond’s pilot programs, the Entergy Charitable Foundation renews and deepens its support of the College Beyond’s mission through this major grant.

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.

Join in our mission by making a tax-deductible donation today.

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Executive Director Honored with 2017 Millennials Award

 

Exec. Dir. Paris Woods receiving the 2017 Millennials Award in Education on June 15.

A cross-sector awards ceremony, the Millennials Awards celebrate young change-makers in the Greater New Orleans Region.

This Saturday, College Beyond Co-founder and Executive Director Paris Woods was honored as the winner of a 2017 Millennials Award in the category of Education.

We send a hearty congratulations to all the winners and finalists, and sincere thanks to the event organizers and sponsors! Read more about the Awards and this year’s honorees here.

Congratulations, Paris!

 

 

 


Meet College Beyond Student Michael Fernandez

What a great year 2016-2017 has been. We have had a blast working with amazing freshmen at Loyola University and the University of New Orleans this academic year, and we can’t wait to meet the incoming freshmen class! We caught up with UNO’s Michael Fernandez to debrief the year and hear what advice he has to share as a rising sophomore. Check out his insights below!

Michael Fernandez, UNO Class of 2020, International High School Class of 2016

What made you choose UNO? What are you planning to major in, or most interested in studying right now, and why?

UNO was the closest school that had my major, Mechanical Engineering, and it was very affordable and close to home. The thought of working with engines and mechanical parts working together is why I chose this major. My love of cars started when I was young; when I first saw a red Ferrari F40. It sounded so loud and vicious, something that would put you back into your seat. That’s when I started my obsession with cars and engines and how they work. I can just look at a car and tell you what the model, company, and year of the car.

What’s the best part of your freshman year?

The classes. The instructors are really nice and informative, in the way they explain materials. It was easy to transition to UNO. It seems like I had a good framework of people I knew and people already coming here. It seems to be easy to catch up on what I should be taking for classes and which instructors to choose. It’s one of those universities that it’s not too big, so you can get to know the people on campus.

What challenges have you encountered this year, and what have you done to overcome them?

I’ve had a couple teachers that have been difficult. Some have not been able to communicate to students in a way that is understandable. I ended up coming together with other students to study and help each other out in that class.

This Spring semester, I wasn’t doing so hot in chemistry. It was the middle of the semester and seemed like things weren’t going to get better. I switched out of the class and picked up a philosophy class. It was so good and my GPA was saved in a mid-semester “Hail Mary.”

Can you talk a little about working with Ms. Erica through College Beyond? What about her coaching have you found most useful, and why?

She really helped me in getting a second opinion and thinking outside the box. For example, we were able to look at what we could do differently with my class load. That’s when I decided that I could drop chemistry and replace it with philosophy to save my GPA. Philosophy will also count towards one of my humanities credits that I need to fulfill for my major. It’s actually a pretty fun class too!

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? What are your goals after college?

Graduated and working as an engineer for an automobile company, that’s my dream job. I would love to custom design and build parts for specialty cars.

Hundreds of new high school graduates across New Orleans are about to start college in just a few weeks. You’re already through that process! What advice would you share with them?

Don’t wait until the last minute! You don’t have to have your mind set on your major and track yet but try to have a good idea of where you want to go. Don’t slack and don’t skip. It’s easy to skip auditorium classes but you’d rather not because you will be lost in the class.

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.

Join in our mission by making a tax-deductible donation today.

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College Beyond Board of Directors Welcomes David Robinson-Morris and Katie Walmsley

College Beyond is delighted to welcome two new Directors to our Board: higher education scholar and Xavier University administrator David Robinson-Morris and Teach For America Finance and Administration Officer Katie Walmsley.

Read more about Mr. Robinson-Morris and Ms. Walmsley in their bios.

Dr. David Robinson-Morris. (Photo by Irving Johnson III.)

Ms. Katie Walmsley

 


What’s a metaphor for College Beyond? A village.

Dr. Andre Perry and Paris Woods at the WBOK 1230 station on March 28.

Many thanks to our Propeller mentor, Dr. Andre Perry, for the invitation to talk college persistence on his WBOK radio show, Free College, this week.

Dr. Perry asked Exec. Dir. Paris Woods, “Particularly if you’re a first generation college student, you don’t naturally have these support systems in place. If there’s a metaphor for your organization, what is it? Is it a family? A safety net?”

So often, the way we think of college is, ‘Now students are on their own, it’s a matter of independence,’ and that no student is relying on anyone else for support. And I think that’s a great myth about how college education works in this country.

Paris’s answer: “I think one metaphor might be that of a village. So often, the way we think of college is, ‘Now students are on their own, it’s a matter of independence,’ and that no student is relying on anyone else for support. And I think that’s a great myth about how college education works in this country.

Every student receives support. I think about how I was a first generation student, but I went to school [at Harvard] with plenty of students with many generations of college attendance…and how much they relied on their parents, how many different folks they could call for an answer to a question that they had. And we want to be in that position both to provide support to students but to connect them to a network of support that they might not otherwise have access to.”

Check out the full video, which The Hechinger Report streamed live on its Facebook page, here.

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.

Join in our mission by making a tax-deductible donation today.

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Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust Makes Gift to College Beyond

College Beyond is delighted to announce a grant from the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust to support our 2017-2018 programs.

The Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust was established from the generosity of World War II veteran and New Orleans business man Oscar J. Tolmas, who donated his entire estate to the trust. The Trust is focused on supporting the social benefit missions of local charitable organizations. We are grateful for the Trust’s support, which is focused on our 2017-2018 student coaching services.

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.

Join in our mission by making a tax-deductible donation today.

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Donation Total: $25