New campaign asks students to share access, completion struggles

When it comes to the national conversation about improving college completion rates, higher education experts, policymakers, and advocates are front and center. But a new campaign hopes that amplifying student voices will help shed light on challenges—and potential solutions, according to The Hechinger Report.

The recently launched #WeBelongInCollege social media campaign asks students to share stories about hurdles they encountered in applying to college, times they questioned whether they belonged, and obstacles to completing their degree.

Related: 5 opportunities to build first-gen students’ sense of belonging at Georgetown >

The campaign was brought about by college advising nonprofit Get Schooled and the Emmy-nominated documentary film “Personal Statement,” which follows New York City high school seniors as they apply to college. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the campaign is enticing participation by offering $1,000 scholarships for the 25 students with the most inspiring stories, as well as free copies of the film.

‘I didn’t realize I had a voice in this.’

The hashtag campaign has been a powerful way for students to translate their social media activity into useful, relevant advice for their peers. The campaign also has an accompanying curriculum unit to help educators engage students in the effort. Dwayne Britton, a school social worker in Staten Island, told The Hechinger Report that he’s seen positive effects.

“The curriculum broke down the process of applying, and for me, I like anything that gives students both soft skills and hard skills,” Britton said, adding that he “can’t stop raving about this process” and how it taps into students’ interests in making videos and posting to Instagram and TikTok. One student who participated in the campaign told him, “I didn’t realize I had a voice in this.”

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