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‘Tis the season for college applications, and we are excited to share our Pilot Program progress!   The combination of college admissions group workshops and one-on-one individualized guidance has been the key to student success. Without professional guidance, many students commonly miss critical deadlines and misunderstand important application requirements. We have designed a system that tracks each Scholar’s individual requirements and progress, which ensures nothing is overlooked. 

Scholars have been diligently working this fall: filling out applications, applying for scholarships, completing financial aid documents, and preparing for standardized tests. Watching them uncover their voices through writing college essays has been a powerful experience.  They have overcome remarkable odds, and the college essay serves as a unique opportunity to share their inspiring stories.

In September, we launched our mock interview program where our Scholars met with local Yale University alumnus, Dr. Andy Gersoff, to train for official college interviews. These interviews provided extremely valuable feedback, experience and encouragement which will support them in their official college admissions and scholarship interviews. Thank you Dr. Gersoff. 

We continue to cultivate exciting partnerships with local organizations to mobilize resources and address the educational inequity in Santa Barbara.

In October, Mission Scholars and The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara co-hosted a bilingual financial aid workshop for all Mission Scholars and their families. This kind of step-by-step instruction and in-depth guidance was instrumental in helping families navigate the complex financial aid process.

Early Success in Pilot Program:

  • 37 early applications submitted to colleges in 12 states
  • 3 QuestBridge Finalists: a highly selective scholarship that allows outstanding students to gain admission and full 4-year funding to the nation’s top colleges
  • 125 point increase on SAT scores as a result of the intensive test prep course and individualized guidance
  • Three early acceptances with a combined $176,000 in merit-aid scholarships


Get to know one of Mission Scholars’ first volunteers!

Q: Tell us a little about your background.
A: As a student at Harvard, I was hired as an editor of the Let’s Go travel guides, and I’ve never looked back. After graduation, I went right into book publishing, where I focused mostly on non-fiction titles, including biographies and memoirs. I currently do freelance editorial work and tutor writing at SBCC, which gives me the opportunity to work with students of all ages and across a range of subjects. I am also a mother of three, so I have a very real appreciation of the joys and struggles inherent in applying to college.

Q: Why did you choose to be a volunteer for Mission Scholars?
A: Mission Scholars offers me an opportunity to do what I love, with a group of highly deserving students, and under the outstanding direction of Cassie, Katie, and Kim. I am particularly excited by the idea of taking a cohort of students through the college application process, creating a support system that will hopefully be there for them as they transition onward.

Q: What has been your favorite part of your role as volunteer?
A: Working with the students to help them tell their stories, and getting to know them in the process, has been an inspiration and a great privilege.

Q: What have you learned in your work with Mission Scholars so far?
A: The future is bright!

For us, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing Mission Scholars’ faces when they click that “Submit” button. They are making history in their families. Their ambition, resilience, unique talent, and above all, their shared desire to be role models in the community is inspiring. One student’s college and career success can have a multiplier effect on the family and community as a whole. We can’t wait to share with you all that they will accomplish!
It is because of your donations that we are able to have an impact in the community. Please feel free to reach out if you would like to be involved in our mission to equip and empower more low-income local students to attend selective four-year institutions.

We are so grateful for your encouragement and support, and we look forward to sharing our journey with you!


Cassie Lancaster, Katie Kinsella and Kim Phillips