Adviser helps high school students make college plans a reality

Saturday, January 17, 2015
Mykesha Jackson stands among some of the colleges she promotes as a member of the Missouri College Advising Corps. The Sikeston native is in her first of a two-year stint with MCAC at New Madrid County Central High School. (Jill Bock, Staff)

NEW MADRID -- Sometimes success can be measured in tears.

Mykesha Jackson, who is in her first year as a member of the Missouri College Advising Corps at New Madrid County Central, said she realized just how much her work is making a difference, when a student recently arrived in her office clutching an envelope.

The student had come to Jackson's office in November explaining she wanted to be a veterinary technician and wanted to go to Jefferson College. Much to Jackson's dismay many deadlines for applying to colleges had passed but the student promised to work hard.

The two began filling out the applications. Jackson said community colleges typically let students know quickly if they are accepted but in this case, the weeks passed.

"One day she comes in after school and ... throws this letter on my desk and says: 'I got it. I got accepted and do you know my dad cried?'" Jackson recalled

The student added even her grandmother cried when hearing the news her granddaughter was going to college.

For Jackson, her job with the student isn't over with the acceptance letter. Now, she said they are focusing on ways to make the student's studies more affordable by filling out college scholarship applications and federal student aid forms.

The mission of the Missouri College Advising Corps is "to empower Missouri students to go to college and succeed." To do this, the program, which is based out of the University of Missouri, takes recent college graduates and places them in high schools across the state, particularly those schools with minorities, first-generation students or low-income students to help create college-going culture.

Jackson, who was born and raised in Sikeston, graduated last May from Drury University with a degree in communication studies and minors in global studies and entrepreneurship. She had planned on attending graduate school until one of her instructors at Drury, who knew about her passion for mentoring and education, told her about MCAC.

After she learned more about the program, she applied and was accepted as one of the advisers in 41 schools across the state. For two years she will work with the New Madrid County Central students.

"I always wanted to give back not only to my ethnic community but my rural community. I'm very passionate about rural education, rural communities. I knew I could do the job but I didn't know how quickly I would fall in love with the students," she said.

While Jackson was eager to take on the challenges of a rural school district, the students are just as eager to learn from their new adviser. As the first months passed, Jackson tallied 200 or more advising sessions, primarily with juniors and seniors although occasionally even a freshman or sophomore drops by with questions.

"I'm nearly a peer with the students...so they can open up to me about their dreams and aspirations," Jackson said.

According to Jackson, typically in a first meeting with a student she tries to get to know them, asking them to fill out a questionnaire and trying to learn about their interests. Many times, she said, she finds herself reassuring students that higher education can be a part of their future.

"I'm proud to be the first college adviser for New Madrid," she said. "I'm so excited for the next adviser when he or she comes in to sort of leave a small legacy, to coach them as best I can to keep the fire going.

"Sometimes the emotional pay is greater than the financial pay is," Jackson concluded. "The Missouri College Advisory Corps is one of the greatest things to happen to me."

For the complete story, see the Sunday edition of the Standard Democrat.

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