November 2020: KY College Coach Spotlight
Meet Angela Duncan, Ph.D.,
or “Dr. D.” as students call her.
Angela Duncan, Ph.D., or “Dr. D,” as students call her, is the Kentucky College Coach at Southern High School in Louisville, KY. Southern has a population of about 1,300 students, the majority of whom are students of color, economically disadvantaged, or in some cases both. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) has been operating virtually for the 2020-2021 academic year. As you can imagine, this has made it challenging for all involved.
Having worked in the college and career advocacy arena for the past 17 years, she was excited to fill this position and give back to a school district through which she attended over 20 years ago. However, Duncan also understands the social and cultural differences that come up when working with students from low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented backgrounds. She knows from past experiences that it can take time for students to get to know you and trust not only that you know what you’re doing; but also that you have their best interests in mind. Because Duncan is new in this position, and JCPS is virtual, it has been doubly challenging to accomplish this responsibility. Even though this is true, it has not stopped her from pushing forward.
Throughout the semester, various teachers and school counselors have referred students to Duncan and asked her to participate in discussions about FAFSA, scholarships, and other college-related items. She has also kept in touch with students and parents through email to make sure they know she available to assist as they navigate the college and career search/choice process. It has been refreshing to speak with juniors and seniors as they make plans for their next steps and to celebrate with them as they complete each task.
Because Duncan came into this position directly after finishing volunteer service with Peace Corps Botswana, there has been a continued reminder that she has to be patient and trust the process. Patience and trust are especially critical since we are all collectively navigating a global pandemic and increased racial tension. Though she has been able to adjust relatively well, Duncan recognizes that this may not be the case for her students. Since virtual learning may not be going well, students may not be able to create any separation between school and home. Things that would be a priority in a “normal” situation have now shifted.
This circumstance does not mean students and families have lessened the value and importance of postsecondary education. It just means that as an educator, Duncan must recognize the shift to continue providing information to the students. Duncan is ready to assist students when called upon and, most importantly, be supportive.