Ms. Fakunle has set up shop at a table inside the Fisk University library and is ready for her day of check-ins with KIPP Nashville alumni who currently attend Fisk.
“My goal is to get a feel for where they are right now,” explains Ms. Fakunle. “How are their classes going? How is their roommate situation? Have they joined any clubs?”
This fall check-in provides Ms. Fakunle with a benchmark for ongoing meetings throughout a student’s college career.
Ms. Fakunle adds, “In one meeting we may see everything is going great, but in the next meeting, a student has had a tougher academic semester, so we focus on problem-solving for that situation. We flex based on our students’ needs.”
As one of two college persistence counselors on the KIPP Through College team, Ms. Fakunle has a caseload of students from KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School’s class of 2018 and 2019. This persistence work is part of making sure Collegiate students are supported in their journey to and through college and have the lifelines needed to persist from semester to semester through graduation.
“I talked with each of my students every week over the summer,” says Ms. Fakunle. “It’s great to see where our kids are now and exciting to hear from them how their experience is going so far.”
Ms. Fakunle’s first appointment is with Nick, a freshman at Fisk who’s interested in majoring in chemistry.
“I’ve really enjoyed meeting people from other parts of the country,” says Nick of his first few months of college.
While asking questions, Ms. Fakunle is listening and taking notes, making sure to get a holistic picture of how Nick’s freshman year experience has been thus far.
“It’s comforting to have Ms. Fakunle, because I know I don’t have to do this by myself,” says Nick, who adds, “If I hadn’t come to KIPP, college would be so much harder. I wouldn’t have the note taking or test taking skills needed to succeed or feel as comfortable participating in class.”
Nick credits the high school KIPP Through College support with opening his eyes to Fisk, which became one of his top choices.
“Without KIPP Through College, I wouldn’t have been paying attention to the financial aid process or known about the common application. I wouldn’t be here right now.”
After Nick leaves, Ms. Fakunle meets with William, a sophomore who is studying psychology and interested in social work.
William tells Ms. Fakunle, “Sophomore year has been a bit easier, because I know what to expect. I haven’t had any surprises, and I know where to go if I need help, or who to ask.”
As someone who’s a year removed from high school, William adds, “I feel like I took the KIPP Through College support for granted in high school. I don’t think I realized how much help I would need once I was in college. The support is helpful, and it motivates me, because it shows that I have people rooting for me and trying to help. Even though there are times I might feel overwhelmed, I know they’re only a text or a call away. It makes me feel good to have that support system.”
While the face-to-face meetings are an important touch-point, Ms. Fakunle is also talking to her students over phone, text and email in between.
“My job is all about building relationships and understanding where our kids are coming from,” explains Ms. Fakunle. “We want our students to trust us and know that we’re there for them and will support them. A lot of times our students just need to know we’re there.”
Ms. Fakunle finishes her meetings with Nick and William, waits on one more KIPPster and packs up for the day to head back to the high school where she also prioritizes getting to know current students. Once those students graduate, they will become part of her caseload, so already having the beginning stages of that relationship helps ease the transition from high school graduate to college freshman.
“I love seeing our students go from one stage to another and blossom into their own person, it’s really amazing,” says Ms. Fakunle. “I like the fact that regardless of the outcome, I had a hand in being a voice that was there to help and support. It may not have been what I wanted for them or what society says it should be. Just being a part of their journey is important to me.”