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TCU CAC Senior Adviser Valerie Gonzalez holds up a Tarrant To & Through sign

The Tarrant To & Through (T3) Partnership, a new coalition designed to help more students achieve success after graduating high school, has partnered with TCU’s College Advising Corps (CAC). The effort aims to boost the number of students graduating from high school ready to pursue a postsecondary plan to ultimately find a sustainable career path.

“As recent college graduates, these advisers, many of whom attended these same high schools, are uniquely positioned to help underrepresented students create a postsecondary plan for success after high school,” said Mattie Parker and Jay McCall of T3 in an editorial in the Fort Worth Business Press.

The T3 Partnership, initiated by a group of community leaders including the Rainwater Charitable Foundation and The North Texas Community Foundation, provides targeted resources, financial support and programmatic opportunities for students and families in Tarrant County. Through a partnership with Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD), all FWISD juniors and seniors can become T3 Scholars by signing the Partnership Pledge. As T3 Scholars, students are connected to high-impact interventions including scholarships, job shadow opportunities and additional college and career advising. The T3 Partnership’s most significant investment is expanding TCU’s chapter of the national College Advising Corps.

"As a result of the CAC, more first generation, low-income students are applying to colleges and universities, are being accepted into colleges and universities, and are more likely to apply for college and university scholarships,” said College of Education Dean Frank Hernandez. “All of these experiences will transform the lives of students, their communities and our country.”

Ten Years of Impact

Over the past ten years, the TCU CAC program has employed more than 150 TCU alumni to advise students at public high schools in Tarrant County. The national program aims to increase the number of first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students who complete postsecondary education. More than half of TCU CAC advisers are first-generation college graduates and one-third of advisers graduated from one of the program’s partner high schools.

“The biggest impact of this partnership is that our advisers can have more one-on-one contact with students and parents and help them in a more efficient way,” said Matt Burckhalter, TCU CAC Director. “We’ve been able to reduce our adviser-to-student ratio to engage students early and prepare them for postsecondary opportunities by the time they’re seniors.”

The partnership and investment in TCU CAC helped the program expand from 24 to 54 college advisers and place multiple advisers at six FWISD high schools: Diamond Hill-Jarvis, Dunbar, Eastern Hills, O.D. Wyatt, Polytechnic and Western Hills. TCU CAC also hired two former advisers, Maggie Moore and Rebeca Moreno, as program coordinators.

Moore earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from TCU in 2017. She served as an adviser for two years at Paschal High School while earning her Master of Education in Higher Education Leadership, received in 2019. She works with Moreno and the program’s Assistant Director Melondy Doddy to support FWISD advisers.

“As an adviser, I loved the fact that I was able to make connections with students and invest in them," Moore said. “It’s such an amazing program to work for and make a big difference in people’s lives.”

Brian Hernandez earned his Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education in 2018 and now serves as a senior adviser at his alma mater, Polytechnic High School. He worked with former adviser Natasha Zinsou while in high school and said that if it hadn’t been for her he wouldn’t have attended TCU. He will earn his Master of Liberal Arts in the fall of 2020 and said that as a first-generation college student, he enjoys helping students and families navigate postsecondary education.

“Since I had that experience myself it feels really nice to explain processes to a parent in English or Spanish,” he said. “You can see the instant change on their face. It’s an instant feeling of relief and a stepping stone to something life-changing.”

Hernandez said that as significant as the work is, the culture of TCU’s chapter makes a difference.

“TCU’s CAC chapter has so much heart and the leadership has fostered a culture of support,” he said. “I think that’s just as important with the work we do.”

Western Hills senior adviser Valerie Gonzalez earned her dual bachelor's degrees in film, television and digital media and political science from TCU in 2018. She will earn her Master of Liberal Arts in fall 2020 and said that her new role has been an adjustment, especially with COVID-19 precautions. She said that it’s been a welcome change to working as the only adviser in the high school. For her, it’s been a priority to build relationships with school leadership, staff and especially the students she advises.

“If you show that you’re invested in them, they will invest in you as well,” she said. “I still have former students reach out to me and seeing them grow has been the most exciting part of CAC.”

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