Success Story: Minority Liaison at Warren County High School
For too many high school seniors, the transition from high school to college or to a career can be a period of confusion and uncertainty. As college brochures, job listings, and financial aid forms pile up in front of them, even the most determined student may find themselves desperate for support. For minority students at Warren County High School in McMinnville, TN, this is where Leah Simpson steps in. Employed as the school’s Minority Liaison since 2018, Leah is responsible for guiding underrepresented students – many of them identifying as Hispanic/Latino – to their best-fit post-secondary pathway. With a focus on building trust and fostering relationships, Leah is working to create a new generation of college-and-career-ready high-school graduates in her community.
A former teacher at Warren County High School (WCHS), Leah’s desire to support underserved students stemmed from years of watching too many graduates leave the high school without a post-grad plan. She noticed that this transition seemed to be particularly challenging for students whose parents had not attended college themselves, had immigrated to the United States, or did not speak English. With this observation in mind, Leah set out to support not only students, but entire families. Today, when Leah begins the process of educating a WCHS student on their post-high school opportunities, she is sure to include the student’s family in the conversation.
In a normal year, a week in Leah’s shoes might involve a field trip – the class of 2020 visited Cumberland University, Tennessee Tech University, and a Nissan manufacturing facility – or a FAFSA Frenzy event, along with dozens of one-on-one meetings with her students. However, 2020 was not a normal year. As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted school-as-usual, Leah leaned on Google Classroom to ensure continued support to her students. This digital solution allowed Leah to provide the guidance she would ordinarily offer inside school walls – guidance related to the ACT, college admissions, community services opportunities, summer programs, and more. Despite the many challenges caused by COVID-19, 80% of Leah’s students in the class of 2020 reported post-graduation plans involving postsecondary education, career, or military service. Those students who pursued postsecondary education were awarded a combined total of over $1.5M in scholarship funds.
As Minority Liaison, Leah’s support of her students extends beyond the high school years. She uses technology to keep in touch with her students; even years after graduation, WCHS graduates have approached Leah for help with everything from FAFSA renewal to assisting with a transfer application. Because Leah invests so much time into building relationships with her students and their families, she is viewed as a trusted resource that can be relied upon to offer guidance and support to her community for years to come. The Scarlett Family Foundation is proud to support Leah Simpson and Warren County High School in their mission to guide all students to a life of success after high school.