Adviser Named Virginia State AmeriCorps Member of The Year
Lee Bernstein, who this month is concluding three years of service as a College Advising Corps adviser at the University of Virginia, has been named Virginia State AmeriCorps Member of the Year, an annual award recognizing and celebrating members who exemplify one or more AmeriCorps pillars, Unite, Strengthen, and Lead.
“This is very exciting,” shared Lee, who supports students at Rappahannock County High School in Washington, Virginia. “Serving as an adviser is truly one of the best things I’ve done. The service of our program staff and advisers is life-changing.”
A native of Massachusetts, Lee pursued a double major in economics and politics and a minor in education policy. She graduated from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, in the spring of 2020.
“I knew that if I were to engage in a career in politics and policy, I needed on-the-ground experience first,” shared Lee. “After hearing about College Advising Corps, I applied to both the Boston University program and the UVA program. I really wanted to serve as an adviser.”
Lee’s service with the UVA program, which this year celebrates 15 years of service, began in the fall after U.S. schools shuttered because of the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Reaching students virtually to discuss their postsecondary goals was a significant challenge, but not one from which Lee would shrink.
“We were really lucky at the beginning of the 2021 school year, we were able to come back in person—albeit on a hybrid schedule,” remembered Lee.
Despite the challenges and the endless pivots, Lee excelled, building strong relationships with her students and their families, her school’s administration, and the community at large.
“Lee is truly selfless and does all she can to holistically support students’ postsecondary preparation and planning,” wrote Alex Johnston, associate program director, in her nomination of Lee. “She not only exceeds expectation in every aspect of her role, but she epitomizes servant leadership in all she does.”
During the pandemic, Lee helped lead a statewide FAFSA assistance initiative with the Virginia College Access Network (VCAN), which resulted in a 3.2% increase in FAFSA completions statewide and narrowed the FAFSA completion gap for Title 1 schools by 9.4%. Lee also volunteered to help support under-resourced high schools in her region, hosting large group presentations for families and interview preparation workshops for seniors.
“Lee has become a trusted resource among her colleagues,” continued Johnston. “She also represented Virginia in a national fellowship with College Advising Corps in which participants developed new strategies to support underclassmen in their postsecondary planning process.”
Lee surpassed program averages for every key performance indicator (KPI) tracked by her program. Lee, whose school averages 60 seniors per year, held more than 1,300 one-on-one meetings with students and helped seniors submit 400 college applications during her tenure. Her students leveraged over $775,000 in scholarship funds.
“Our school benefits significantly because of all that Lee does to not only prepare students for post-graduation but also improve our overall climate and culture,” said school counselor Dani Pond. “She is quite the star, and we are so grateful for all the ways she shines and makes life better for her students.”
Concluding her service, this summer Lee will join Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, as a student success coordinator.
“I’ve loved my time as an adviser at Rappahannock,” said Lee. “This award is an honor, and, in many ways, it ties a bow on my service.”
If you are a recent or soon-to-be college graduate and are interested in serving as a College Advising Corps adviser at the University of Virginia, please visit Become An Adviser. If you would like to support the work of advisers, like Lee, please visit Donate.
Karen E. Butler joined College Advising Corps in 2019 with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications. Karen has a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communications with a concentration in public relations.