VIDAL Access aims to level the playing field around college acceptance

“A child is a child.”

This is the philosophy of VIDAL Access, a non-profit college access organization that provides school-based counseling services to primarily low-income students.

VIDAL Access recently announced that they have helped two students from Birmingham gain acceptance into Ivy League schools. Jose Tallaj, a student at John Carroll Catholic High School, was accepted to Columbia University, and Kennedy Tyson, a student at Indian Springs School, was accepted to Brown University.

The non-profit organization is “pushing” college consultants into Birmingham-area high schools to provide students with writing support, SAT and ACT prep, and resume writing and writing help, among other services.

“Our method of ‘push’ in schools is a reflection of our values,” said Lance Beverly, president and CEO of VIDAL Access. “We’re not trying to pick the top five kids from Ramsay High School, the top three kids from Woodlawn, the top three kids from John Carroll who fall into this ‘diverse bucket of students.’ We have this full-fledged model of “pushing” into schools because every child matters.

The US Department of Education reports that students only receive 38 minutes of college counseling per year, Beverely said, stemming from the overwhelming workloads and responsibilities of school counselors.

School counselors across the country have many responsibilities such as coordinating tests, conducting surveys, social and emotional development and lesson planning, Beverly said, which means only 22% of their time can be devoted to duties related to the university council, according to the College. Plank.

The American School Counseling Association recommends a ratio of 250 students to 1 counselor, but the national average is 480 to 1 and in Alabama that number is 450 students to every counselor, he said.

“When only about a fifth of your time can be spent on college counseling and you have 450 students under your care, it’s no wonder the US national average is 38 minutes of college counseling per year in high school,” says Beverly.

Beverly designates Birmingham High Schools as the main “offices” of VIDAL Access. VIDAL Access places academic consultants in schools for 8 hours because it believes it should not be the responsibility of students to contact them, he said.

“Our aim is to provide low-income, lower-middle-class students with the same level of academic counseling support that a wealthy family would seek in the private market, but we provide this on-site at the school,” said Beverly said. . “The thing is, most of the students we serve come from a single parent home where mom has a few jobs or maybe you have two siblings to take care of.”

Beverly has had a passion for college access work since she was 13, he said. When his grandmother died after graduating from college at age 28, it encouraged him to pursue his lifelong passion for college access work, Beverly said.

“It’s as simple as that: a child is a child,” Beverly said. “We see the kid, we help the kid. That’s why we partner with a devout Catholic school, and that’s why we partner with an LGBTQ school, because a child is a child.

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