College Crusade’s Maria Carvalho Wins 2017 College Access Practitioner Award of Excellence

September 11, 2017

By Allie Ciaramella, Communications Manager 

Maria Carvalho of the College Crusade of Rhode Island was awarded the Dr. David B. Swedlow Memorial College Access Practitioner Award of Excellence today at NCAN’s 22nd annual national conference in San Diego, CA.

The award recognizes the dedication, hard work, and innovation of an individual working at a college access program.

Rick Torres, President and CEO of National Student Clearinghouse, presents the award to Maria Carvalho.

Maria is Director for Postsecondary Transition and Success at the College Crusade of Rhode Island, an NCAN member that works to increase high school graduation, college and career readiness, and college completion for youth in the Ocean State’s low-income communities. Maria has been with the College Crusade for more than 20 years, having joined in 1996 as a first-generation college student working full-time while earning a bachelor’s degree in human services. (More recently, Maria got her master’s in education.)

The field coordinator for the College Crusade’s first team of high school advisors in 2001, Maria was later promoted to high school program manager, pioneering the use of advisors as a strategy for increasing high school graduation and college access. She led the high school advisory team for a dozen years, while notching such notable accomplishments as increasing low-income student participation in Rhode Island’s College Goal Sunday, leading a Lumina Foundation initiative in Providence to raise FAFSA completion rates, and being invited to a 2015 White House summit on addressing barriers for first-generation students in accessing financial aid.

After building the Crusade’s college success initiative from the ground up over the last six years – in her “spare time,” at the start – Maria now leads the new postsecondary transition and success department and a team of four college advisors, and oversees the dual enrollment program. Her focus on improving integration between high school and college services birthed an initiative that reduced “summer melt” among so-called Crusaders at public colleges by 45 percent over three years. In partnership with local colleges, she also developed new Summer Bridge initiatives. Maria’s work is one of the key reasons why – from the point of entry in sixth grade – Crusaders are 11 percent more likely to graduate high school on time, 30 percent more likely to attend college immediately, and 39 percent more likely than similar students to persist to a second year.

Maria’s organization will receive $1,000 to put toward professional development. Her award was named for Dr. Swedlow, former NCAN Director of Programs, after his passing and in honor of his commitment to the cause of college access. Past winners include:

  • 2016: Ramiro Fonseca, Program Manager for College Access and Success, Project GRAD Houston, Houston, TX
  • 2015: Troy Miller, Florida College Access Network, Tampa, FL 
  • 2014: David J. Rodriguez, Metropolitan Education Commission, Tucson, AZ
  • 2013: Cheryl Lee Jones, Program Director, Access College Foundation, Norfolk, VA
  • 2012: Daniel Cruz, Director of Student & Parent Services, Education is Freedom, Dallas, TX
  • 2011: Samuel Rowser, Program Director, On Point for College, Syracuse, NY
  • 2010: Jerry Henry, Director of High School Advising, uAspire, Boston, MA
  • 2009: Linda Shiller, Director Career and Education Outreach, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, Winooski, VT
  • 2008: Victor Garcia, Director of Outreach Projects, USC Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2007: Angela Whitlow, Program Director, Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

NCAN solicits nominees from its membership for the annual Awards of Excellence in College Access and Success. A committee of NCAN members reviews all nominations, with final decisions confirmed by the NCAN board of directors. NCAN thanks the eight members of the 2017 Awards Committee for their service:

  • Michelle Alejano, Washington College Access Network
  • Janet Cunningham, Citizens for Educational Excellence
  • Linda Jensen, Arizona College Access Network
  • Zenia Henderson, CollegeTracks
  • Nancy Leopold, CollegeTracks
  • Kaitlyn Sanders, Nativity Miguel Coalition
  • Teresa Steinkamp, Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis
  • Ashley Woodous, ACCESS College Foundation

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