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  • January 26, 2018 by Challenge Scholars Staff

    Union High Aluma Back to Help Redhawks Succeed

    Today, Marisol Blanco is associate director of the Grand Rapids Community College Success Center. Her journey to this position started over a decade ago when she was a student at Union High School.

    At Union High, Marisol had been a top student academically. She was offered many experiences and opportunities that were not available to her peers. “Because of the caseload, often times kids at the top and kids who are most vulnerable get all the support from school staff. There’s a large group of students in the middle who are overlooked,” Marisol said. She noticed this throughout her high school career and the desire to change it stuck with her.

    Marisol graduated from Union in 2005 and headed to the University of Michigan where she spent the next five years studying sociology, Spanish, and Latino studies.

    After finishing college, Marisol returned to Grand Rapids. Her first post-college position was serving as a college advisor at Ottawa High School with the Michigan College Advising Corps.

    “I worked with low-income, first-generation students—kids like me. I could talk about my experience and the barriers that I faced,” Marisol said.

    As part of her role at Ottawa Hills, Marisol helped students navigate the college application process. She always wondered what kind of support the students would receive once they were at college. She knew from experience that this could be a tough transition.

    When a Success Coach position at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) became available, Marisol jumped at the opportunity. In this role, she could focus on helping students stay in college once they were there.  

    Her experience came full circle when GRCC success coaches became engaged with Challenge Scholars back at her alma mater, Union High School.

    GRCC success coaches spend time with Challenge Scholars in the classroom. They build relationships with students, identify barriers, and offer support and interventions to ensure their success in school. They set goals with students and help them work towards achieving them. They also share the GRCC campus with students and their families. “Challenge Scholars is providing a comprehensive approach for students who experience a lot of barriers to higher education. The financial barrier to college is a big one, but there are many others too,” Marisol said. “I’m excited to be a part of this and am proud of all the work that the entire team is doing. This is going to have an incredibly positive impact on students, families, and our community.”