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Meeting Fellows’ Diverse Needs Through Partnerships

By Stephen Barker
March 28, 2022

OneGoal is piloting new partnerships to expand access to high-quality postsecondary opportunities for OneGoal Fellows and providing them with the timely and relevant support they need to complete their journeys in higher education.

Sana Al Taima (back row, 2nd from the right) in a candid moment with friends and OneGoal staff. Sana is working with a College Coach through OneGoal partner, Beyond 12.

When OneGoal alum Sana Al Taima decided to go to the University of Houston (UH), her acceptance letter felt like a consolation prize at first, “COVID hit my family hard financially, so I had to turn down my first choice.” She adds, “OneGoal helped me apply for financial aid and register for classes, so it all worked out really well.” In her sophomore year on the Pre-Dental track at UH, Sana has settled into her postsecondary journey, “this has actually been a great experience so far.”

Part of what has made the experience great for Sana is the additional support she’s received from Tajeé Jackson Drake, her College Coach at Beyond 12. Beyond 12 is a national nonprofit organization helping low-income, first-generation, and historically underrepresented students graduate from college. For Sana, Tajeé’s approach felt familiar, “I appreciated the fact that her coaching is very similar to the cohort we have at OneGoal—like she’s a woman of color, she’s first-generation, and she’s experienced the same things as me.”

OneGoal began piloting a partnership with Beyond 12 in 2021 with the goal of working with 500 OneGoal Fellows over two years. “What we really want to be true for Fellows is that we’re providing them with the timely and relevant support that they need to complete their postsecondary pathway,” explained OneGoal Chief Program Officer Karla Robles. “OneGoal has incredible programming in place to ensure that that’s true, but we know that we can’t be the end-all-be-all for every student across our organization.”

This emphasis on building partnerships with postsecondary institutions and organizations is part of a broader four-year strategy at OneGoal, focused on ensuring Fellows earn their postsecondary degrees or credentials at twice the national average for low-income communities. “These partnerships are a key to figuring out what Fellows need most in terms of postsecondary completion supports to help them cross that finish line,” says Karla.

Like Sana, OneGoal alum Jaeline Valdez is also working with Tajeé, “for Jaeline, Sana, and all the students I’m coaching, I mostly use texts, emails, and phone calls to connect with them,” remarks Tajee. “Every student’s process is different, so I look at their school calendars, tailor my approach, and send them reminders about financial aid deadlines, or just tips on stress management, building a budget, interviewing skills—all those really great professional development pieces that students should always have access to.”

“I feel like I trust [Tajeé] a lot,” says Jaeline. “At first I was hesitant, but I started telling her about my academics and certain situations I’m in and now I trust her in every aspect with my academics and also personal stuff.”

OneGoal in New York alum Jaeline Valdez says working with her Beyond 12 coach helps push her past moments of procrastination and focus on earning her degree.

When evaluating prospective partners, OneGoal is prioritizing organizations that improve how Fellows are supported to  enroll and persist in quality pathways, provide low-cost options, or that address the diverse needs of students and position them to earn their degrees.

Companies like Guild, which offers low-cost or debt-free quality education opportunities through partnerships with Fortune 1000 companies, are helping OneGoal Fellows take classes for little to no cost through employers like Macy’s, Pepsico, Hilton, and others. “We help companies realize that when they spend money to invest in their employees with education support, they actually do well as a company,” explained Guild Director of Partnerships Kenny Williams. “People stay longer, they’re able to fill these in-demand roles, and it gives these companies a competitive advantage.”

OneGoal Program Directors continue to play a critical role in the mix of completion support for Fellows when they begin their postsecondary pathways, but as OneGoal Senior Director of Program Innovation Rachel Oppenheimer says, “we don’t believe we can tackle this alone, and students win when we work together.” While the collaboration between OneGoal and partners like Beyond 12 and Guild are still in their pilot phase, early results show a positive impact on student persistence, which we believe can be critical to helping them succeed on their postsecondary paths.