At Beyond 12, “student-powered” isn’t just a talking point—it’s a way of operating, a lens through which we continuously strive to work. Building on our student-powered ethos, we have launched our inaugural Student Advisory Board, consisting of seven incredible college students who will collaborate with the Beyond 12 team to help us redesign a higher education system that prepares all students to secure meaningful employment and lead choice-filled lives.
At the start of the journey to build Beyond 12, I knew that co-creating and co-designing with students had to be a central part of our work. As a first-generation college graduate myself, I believe our students, as those closest in proximity to the challenge of educational equity, are best suited to design its solutions. We held focus groups with more than 50 first-generation high school and college students in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, to discuss not just the challenges that first-generation college students face, but also co-design solutions that would change their outcomes – and their lives. Beyond 12 was born from those sessions. Additionally, in collaborating with human-centered design firm IDEO over the last decade, Beyond 12 has developed products and services with our students.
Today, Beyond 12’s technology-enabled coaching platform continues to disrupt the status quo with and for students, engaging them directly in closing the college graduation gap. The launch of our Student Advisory Board is the next iteration of this work. “At Beyond 12, we firmly believe that students must be involved in the development of any student-facing product or service,” says Katherine Zepeda, my incredible Chief of Staff and a former College Coach and first-generation college student, who led the design and creation of the Student Advisory Board. “When given the opportunity and platform to use their agency, students can teach us so much – if we are willing to learn. We look forward to strengthening our work alongside our student advisors.”
Student Advisory Board members were chosen to represent the community of underrepresented students – students who are the first in their families to attend college, from under-resourced communities, and from racial and ethnic groups that have not historically attended college at the same rates as their white peers – at colleges nationwide and will share their perspectives regularly to ensure that Beyond 12 is meeting their needs and those of their fellow students. As current sophomores, juniors, and seniors, Board members have made a commitment to serve in the role for at least one academic year and will be compensated for their time. This role will also help them build and grow their professional networks through connections with members of Beyond 12’s team, external stakeholders, and other college students.
“Students matter; their needs matter; their voices matter. I want to take the role and responsibility for being that voice,” says Atta, a Student Advisory Board member. “As a Student Advisory Board member, not only will I be able to speak about my personal experience, but that of my peers. I want to do my part to invest in humanity’s future leaders, educators, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and innovative minds.”
I’m excited to share Beyond 12’s inaugural Student Advisory Board members below. These seven college students from across the country are skilled in communication, digital content creation, student outreach, and campus leadership. They will share their personal experiences to inspire other college students and to advance Beyond 12's work to help us achieve our audacious goal of serving one million college students annually by 2030 – and to help us redesign a higher education system that is truly equitable.
We hope that this group and the work they co-create with us will inspire higher education leaders to invite college students into their institutional decision-making and nurture their power to shape the future of education. We implore institutions to invest in student-powered infrastructure that does more than work on behalf of students – that actually enables them to direct their own academic, personal, and career success.
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