Julie Nguyen, Devan McFadden, College Adviser Fellows; José Rivas, Program Director, and Omar Padilla-Magana. College Adviser Fellow.

Destination College Adviser Fellows are working to build a collective college-going culture. From left to right: Julie Nguyen, Devan McFadden, College Adviser Fellows; José Rivas, Program Director, and Omar Padilla-Magana. College Adviser Fellow.

Case Study Highlights


Destination College Advising Corps (DCAC) creates an opportunity for first-generation college graduates to “give back” as college advisers for California’s low-income communities. 


  • Match the background of advisers to students served.
  • Believe in the potential of low-income high school students.
  • Provide holistic academic and personal support for both students and families.
  • Use a near-peer advising model to maximize the positive role-model effect.
  • Build a collective college-going culture in underserved schools and communities.


  • Supporting high school students through the college application process is time intensive.
  • It is crucial to work with teachers and families as key partners.


  • To sustain these efforts, DCAC will launch a new fundraising campaign aimed at foundations and business contracts within school districts.

Aries Jaramillo ’13 did not have an easy or straightforward journey to and through higher education. Jaramillo was the first in her family to pursue a college degree. And after she enrolled at Berkeley, she looked for places where she would feel comfortable and welcome given her background and experiences.

She found these in the campus’s culturally based student recruitment and retention centers, where she served as the transfer outreach director, and in the Multicultural Community Center. Through her connections with these programs, Jaramillo learned about the Destination College Advising Corps (DCAC). When she graduated in 2013, she accepted a job as the DCAC College Adviser Fellow at the Cobalt Institute of Math and Science.

41 DCAC adviser fellows serve more than 30,000 students

Cobalt Institute for Math and Science is composed of almost 90 percent students of color, a majority of whom are Latino. Like Jaramillo, many come from families that have moved to the desert from Los Angeles County due to economic hardship. Over the course of her first year at Cobalt, Jaramillo worked with most of the school’s 300 high school students. A key component of her job was the creation of interactive classroom workshops. Jaramillo is one of 41 Destination College Adviser Fellows statewide who provide college counseling and support to more than 30,000 students in underserved high schools throughout California. All adviser fellows are recent graduates and first-generation college students themselves, and each draws on his or her own experiences to assist and inspire young people from similar backgrounds.

One of the most powerful workshop sessions Jaramillo offers is modeled after the DCAC training itself. The session looks at students’ educational journeys and invites each student to share their own educational story with their classmates. This not only allows Jaramillo to know the students better, but also builds community among the students themselves, helping each person surface their own history, goals, and aspirations. As first-generation college students, setting goals and aspirations is an important part of being able to envision themselves in higher education.

Jaramillo ends this Educational Journeys workshop with a literal visioning activity. Students wear university-style graduation caps-and-gowns and take pictures of themselves holding signs that read, “I am going to college because...” She shares these pictures with both the students and their families. When students see the pictures, it sparks pride and ambition. They think, “I’m going to wear this one day and my family will see me in it.” The importance of this visualizing process, which can be both literal and metaphorical, is central to the Destination College program.

More than anything, the individual work that Jaramillo and her colleagues do is about being an advocate for each student — saying, “I believe in you. I know you can do this.” Many students have never had anyone tell them that before, and it can be a profound experience.

In addition to the impact on students and communities, the Destination College Advising Corps program is also deeply meaningful to the adviser fellows themselves. Like many of her colleagues, Jaramillo loves the work she does, and plans to stay in the field of education long after her two years at the Cobalt Institute are over.

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  Destination College Advising Corps