Jan 19, 2017

Better Make Room Announces Student Advisory Board Members


A year ago, as part of her Reach Higher initiative,  First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new public awareness campaign, Better Make Room , to target Generation Z, or young people ages 14-19, to celebrate education, change the national conversation, and reach students directly where they are and give them a space to create content while also navigating the college-going process. Now, Better Make Room needs students to help Mrs. Obama build this movement from the ground up. So, today we’re announcing the launch of the Better Make Room Student Advisory Board (the Board) and the appointment of 17 student members to the Board.

The Board’s mission is to: (1) create a college-going, college-persisting and college-graduating culture at their schools; and (2) connect fellow students to any information and resources they might need to succeed. They wake up every day with a mission, working towards a vision that sees every student at their school enrolling in and completing their education past high school—whether that’s a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.

The inaugural Board has twelve high school students and five college students. Two-thirds of the Board members are, or will be, the first in their families to attain a postsecondary degree. Two-thirds of the high school student Board members currently attend Title I high schools. And the Board members come from all over the nation, representing 13 states.

College Possible–a national nonprofit dedicated to coaching promising low-income students to and through college–has achieved unmatched success in creating more graduates. Ghawayne Calvin, a student at Omaha Northwest Magnet High School and Ana Perez-Villagomez, a student at Omaha South Magnet High School, have been selected for the Better Make Room initiative. As seniors, they both have been a part of the College Possible program since their junior year of high school.  College Possible began in Omaha in 2011 and is currently serving at 10 metro area high schools.

Calvin and Perez-Villagomez are excited about the opportunity to be a part of such a prestigious Student Advisory Board.  “We look forward to returning to our high schools and using the tools we were provided to create opportunities for other students to reach their goals of a college degree, especially students who may not have otherwise had that chance,” commented Perez-Villagomez and Calvin.

Ana Pérez-Villagómez is a senior at South High Magnet in Omaha, Nebraska. She is the president of the student body and a member of the executive board for the National Honor Society and also served on the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commission. Additionally, Ana is an honors team representative for her school at Academic Decathlon competitions and serves as the public relations point person for the Green Team, which increases awareness about her school’s carbon footprint. She is the eldest of six children in her family and will be the first to graduate from high school and attend college. She intends to study chemistry and mathematics, while becoming a tutor for students, at her future institution.

Ghawayne Calvin is a senior at Omaha Northwest High Magnet School in Omaha, Nebraska. He was born and raised in Jamaica but immigrated to the United States with his family in 2013. Ghawayne is a LEDA Scholar, a College Possible student, a member of student government, an Ambassador for the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commission, a Relay for Life Team Captain, and a founding member of the Omaha Student Voices Advisory Council. His passion for health led him to create the Youth Expressions of Health Club at his high school. Ghawayne believes that attending college will be the first step to accomplishing his goal of becoming a surgeon and changing the lives of his family.

College Possible Omaha Executive Director Arvin Frazier is pleased at the opportunities for Student Advisory Board members and at the implications for all low-income students.

“We are incredibly proud of the recognition, leadership and academic excellence their selection to this national student advisory board represents.  There is no doubt that Ghawayne and Ana will return even more energized, engaged and will work to provide additional opportunities for their peers to reach their educational goals. We are grateful we have been able to support them on their journey to a 4 year college degree.”

These students are deeply and personally committed to the mission of Better Make Room and have already demonstrated their remarkable ability to create change in their own communities. In the months to come, Better Make Room’s Board members will be mobilizing their peers to build college-enrolling, college-persisting, and college-graduating cultures at their schools and on their campuses. As proven leaders, organizers, changemakers, and innovators, these students will help the country achieve President Obama’s North Star goal—that our nation will once again lead the world in college completion rates.

Each of these students has a story to tell — and they’re bringing other students with them. The world #BetterMakeRoom.

The Better Make Room Student Advisory Board members will be traveled to the White House on Jan. 6 to attend First Lady Michelle Obama’s School Counselor of the Year Ceremony.