By Ed Devine

White House Reach Higher Initiative – California Style
Unprecedented Partnership Will Drive the Mission

First Lady, Michelle Obama, created the Reach Higher Initiative to encourage every student in America to take charge of their post-secondary education plans.  The goal, set by her husband, was that the U.S. would once again, by the year 2020, have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

The Reach Higher Initiative is a nationwide call to:

  • Expose students to college and career opportunities
  • Encourage FAFSA completion and an understanding of how college can be an affordable investment
  • Encourage academic planning and summer learning opportunities

Thanks to the leadership of Esther Hugo (Former WACAC President) and Loretta Whitson (CASC Executive Director) an unprecedented summit took place this past weekend in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.  The meeting brought together members of the California Association of  School Counselors and Western ACAC.  The weekend-long summit positioned members of each organization face to face to create training modules that would aid counselors throughout CA in driving the mission of the First Lady’s initiative.

Along with Esther Hugo, other WACAC members have been involved with the White House initiative since its inception.  Terri Devine (former WACAC President) and Peggy Hock (WACAC Past President) were at the initial meeting that took place in San Diego.  So too was Katy Murphy (Former NACAC and WACAC President.)  Katy was also part of the team that met in Florida and helped set the 4 metrics below to drive our CA Reach Higher task force.

Thank you to the following WACAC Members who joined the summit meeting: Phil Moreno, Jamilla Jamison, Joanne Ehret, Catalina Cifuentes, and Edgar Montes.


California Reach Higher Metrics – (Join the Reach Higher Initiative)
1)      A-G completion and beyond – defining college preparation
2)      FAFSA completion
3)      Application completion
4)      College entrance exam awareness and completion

A series of webinars, podcast, and counselor workshops are being developed with the partnership between CASC and WACAC.  The aim is to help schools and districts across the state to set their baseline of performance in the four areas, and to then create momentum and programming to increase the rates at which students fulfill all areas of the four critical steps towards post-secondary education.  To lend your voice, your passion and your time to the Reach Higher Initiative, please join the team.

Presidential Note:
For the past 18 years of my career, I have proudly served as a part of the growing trend of regional admission counselors.  From this station, I have been blessed, although not always as a road-warrior, to spend most of my career “in the field.”  Working with counselors from well-appointed private schools, to those in under-served city and rural areas, I have immense respect and appreciation for the counselor who daily champions the young people in their schools.  It has been an honor to partner with so many great people who have spent many hours of their careers driving the same mission outlined above.

What has struck me most is that building an early awareness and expectation that all students can move to post-secondary education opportunities takes people.  Many times it takes people from outside the student’s family, school, or their community to meet them where they are and to say “yes, you can.”  Our ability to communicate via the internet and our obligation to fight for new legislation and programs are critical to serve this mission.  So too, perhaps more than ever, is the face-to-face encounter where a college access professional can state more profoundly and directly to a student they have met, “Yes, Leonard, that means you.”

Join the Reach Higher Initiative