Navigating to College in the COVID-19 World

For high school seniors like Anavelle Hernandez, the pandemic has created new obstacles to overcome on the journey to college. The spaces where college conversations and preparation normally take place—including the DSF Future Center at Abraham Lincoln High School—closed in March for the remainder of the school year. But with the virtual support of DSF College Advisors Emma Kepes and Luis Antezana Alba, Anavelle is still on track to enroll in college in the fall and achieve her college dreams amid the pandemic. 

College is important to me, and also my family, because it’s a big step in my life,” shares Anavelle. It’s going to set up my whole future. 

Hear more from Anavelle and DSF College Advisors by watching our virtual DSF 101 event recording on Zoom.

Moving forward in a time of uncertainty

Navigating to college during a pandemic is not ideal, and the journey entails many challenges even in a normal year. For first-generation college students like Anavelle, complex systems and processes like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and completing verification to receive financial aid are doubly difficult to work through as the first person in their family to do so. 

“This past year, I had no idea how to do my FAFSA, or my college applications,” recalls Anavelle. “I was completely blind to the college process. The DSF Future Center helped me. They [DSF College Advisors] guided me through every single step. The atmosphere and the aura in the Future Center has already boosted me up and helped me with the mental aspect of getting to college.” 

Technology to get the job done

While the doors of the DSF Future Center at Abraham Lincoln High School remain closed, Anavelle can count on her DSF College Advisors to be there every step of the way—virtually. 

DSF College Advisor Luis Antezana Alba says that pivoting to the virtual space required creativity and quick thinking. Knowing that college is still possible even during the difficult times, Luis and his team worked together to adapt and reimagine their advising to reach students like Anavelle where they are at. 

“We’ve picked up our hammers and accepted the challenge,” said Luis. “We’ve reinvented everything we do. For our outcomes, everything is still looking good. Our reinvention has had positive results and really will carry us for years to come.” 

Supporting our students, stronger than ever

DSF College Advisor Emma Kepes affirms that while virtual advising is not the same as in-person work, students benefit now more than ever from college access support. 

A lot of the relationship building we do is best done in person,” explains EmmaThe fact that we’ve gone online was tough at first. But by the time we closed our DSF Scholarship application for the year, we received more applications than we did last year—a result for which we worked really hard.” 

Behind every DSF Scholarship application is a dream of a brighter future and sustainable success for Denver’s students. When we work together as a community to support our students, not even a pandemic can prevent those dreams from becoming a reality.