The following story was written by Jacques a graduate of Jones High School, a Community Partnership School in Orlando, FL.

As a recent high school graduate, I have been reflecting on my senior year, which was mainly filled with excitement and stress. Due to COVID and my family facing significant challenges this past year, I was still determining my future. When I told my mentor, Mrs. Bango-Cooper, Community Partnership School Director at Jones High, that I did not feel like finishing the college application for FAMU, she told me that it was still essential to complete the process. She said that if I didn’t, I might regret it. She offered me hope and reminded me that I must keep going even if it feels overwhelming.

Once I brought in my mom’s financial documents, she encouraged me to fill out scholarships she had handpicked for me to be able to afford in-state schools. I applied for multiple scholarships and submitted my FASFA form, knowing that it would alleviate my worry about going into debt to attend college. Mrs. Cooper, my guidance counselor, and the team at Jones High, a Community Partnership School were there for me when I needed them. They ensured I turned in my finished personal statement, college application, and federal financial aid paperwork. They advocated for me with several college admissions officers.

All schools deserve to have the resources and the support I received through the Community Partnership School because they can play a significant role in helping students achieve what might otherwise feel impossible: pursuing college and other opportunities beyond high school. But we need more of them, especially given the fallout from the COVID pandemic. Students must navigate complex personal and family issues that schools might not notice or acknowledge. And students often hide what’s going on in their lives. I, for one, didn’t want to show the complex parts of my personal life. Eventually, I shared my struggles and found a sympathetic ear.

While my mom is still managing to work three jobs, I am confident that by pursuing a college degree, I will soon be able to contribute financially to my family and it’s all thanks to the help of the teachers, staff, and my mentor at Jones High School, a Community Partnership School. They all deserve a significant token of appreciation for making this worthwhile and continuing to help me every step of the way, even after graduation. When the stakes are high, students need counselors in their corners to remind them of the many opportunities that await them — the very opportunities that so many parents, especially immigrant parents, have sacrificed for them to have.