Greencastle-Antrim High School's college advising program gets two into the White House

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Shelby Trail, left, a student at Gettysburg College, and Dionna Wright, G-AHS College Adviser, shared their insider knowledge at a White House seminar.

Greencastle-Antrim High School was represented at the What Works Showcase, held at the White House Sept. 19 under the auspices of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

G-AHS College Adviser Dionna Wright and 2014 graduate Shelby Trail spoke to approximately 200 people over two sessions on the value of the advising program, operated through the guidance department.

College Advising Corps and nine other agencies supported by grants from the Social Innovation Fund met with White House and agency staff, supporters and investors to share what was working. The Office of Social Innovation was created by President Barack Obama in 2009 to focus on new ways to solve old problems. The groups present had been successful in meeting their goals.

Wright was chosen by her boss at Franklin & Marshall College to speak at the showcase. G-AHS is in its fourth year with an adviser, in cooperation with Franklin and Marshall.

She explained her role at the high school. As a first generation member of her own family to attend college, Wright selected Trail to accompany her for having the same distinction.

“I worked with her closely,” Wright said. “It is gratifying to see the extreme development of Shelby as a college student and now speaking about her experience. That was invigorating for me, although it was cool to be at the White House, too.”

Trail, a freshman at Gettysburg College, is majoring in International Affairs and Higher Education. Since the college does not offer an education major, she is creating her own program.

“Speaking in front of the White House staff was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life,” Trail said. “I explained my background and how the College Advising Corps had made college a reality for me. I never envisioned college being a part of my future.”

She has two younger brothers, one old enough to be thinking about post-secondary education, and he is exploring options.

Wright helped her through the financial aid process, Trail said. She cited assistance with terminology, getting the most out of her aid package, setting up loans, and making her College Scholarship Service Profile. The two compared Penn State Mont Alto and Gettysburg, and the private school came out more affordable.

Trail noted Wright’s service didn’t end at graduation.

“She also followed up with me once I was at Gettysburg to ensure that I do like it and believe it is still a great fit for me.”

Jonathan Greenblatt is director of the Office of Social Innovation, and also Special Assistant to the President. The Pennsylvania College Advising Corps (PCAC) includes a consortium of Dickinson College, F&M College, Gettysburg College, and Millersville University. It placed 13 advisers in 14 underserved Pennsylvania high schools this year.

The goal of PCAC is to increase the number of low-income, first generation college, and underrepresented students entering college and completing higher education.

In addition to enlightening participants at the showcase as to the worth of the advising program, Trail found out about the efforts of other non-profit organizations.

“I learned so much about how their program works and how others in our country are trying to improve education across the board.”