Bridging the gap between high school and college

GVL / Laine Girard
Students introduce themselves and speak about why they are interested in becoming A College Positive Volunteer.

Laine Girard

GVL / Laine Girard Students introduce themselves and speak about why they are interested in becoming A College Positive Volunteer.

Peter Chhum

Prior to entering college, students are forced to tackle the obstacles of standardized testing, college applications and rising tuition costs. In addition, some students are forced to go through this process alone.

The Community Service Learning Center is combating this trend by offering training sessions for Grand Valley State University students to become “College Positive Volunteers.” CPVs are college students who are aware of how they impact the college readiness and the enthusiasm of the youth they interact with.

“I know that I would not have been able to do everything that I did coming into college without the help I received, so I think it’s important to help others find the resources that are available to them,” said Sam Tonks, a CPV and freshman at GVSU.

CPVs volunteer in local communities starting with students in kindergarten and ranging up to seniors.

“It can all start with a simple conversation that you can have with kids that can get them excited,” said Kelsey Rice, a staff assistant at the CSLC. “They know what college is, or they’ve heard about it before, but it’s all about getting them excited about what they can do in life and showing them college is a route to help get them there.”

According to 2008 census data, 36 percent of Michigan’s working adults ages 25-64 hold at least a two-year degree. This runs slightly below the national average of 38 percent.

In a projection made by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 62 percent of Michigan’s jobs will require post-secondary education by 2018.

The CPV training program is a college access platform. It teaches college students how to familiarize youth with the application process to assure future students a smooth college entrance.

The goal is to increase college enrollment, especially for underrepresented students, by aiding them with information and support regarding college preparation. Rather than giving them a brochure, they can ask questions directly to college students.

“If just one person in each training session that I’ve done could talk to five kids, and that grew more, then that could later turn to one hundred kids and it’s that much more going to college,” Rice said. “Everyone is able to benefit as a CPV. Our state receives a more educated workforce, Grand Valley is well represented from our students, and the K-12 youth benefits from the motivation and help.”

The CPV training program addresses the four main barriers that most frequently prevent students from attending college: affordability, academic preparedness, a lack of understanding about how to apply, and social capital — the idea that college is unattainable.

“Oftentimes affordability is the easiest excuse as to why kids don’t go to college. It’s easier to say you can’t afford it than it is to say you don’t think you can do it,” Rice said. “That’s why this is so important. It teaches kids early on that college is attainable and can open up more opportunities for them.”

The CPV Training program takes place once a month with the next session scheduled for March 18 at 7 p.m. To register, visit

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