A college and career advisor at Monett High School was named rootEd Missouri’s “Advisor of the Year." The honor recognizes exemplary efforts to help high school students in rural communities develop and achieve strong plans for life after graduation.
*Photo caption: rootEd Advisor of the Year Samantha Towles (center) with State Senator Karla Eslinger and OTC Chancellor Hal Higdon
A college and career advisor at Monett High School was today surprised with rootEd Missouri’s “Advisor of the Year” award, which recognizes exemplary efforts to help high school students in rural communities develop and achieve strong plans for life after graduation.
Samantha Towles was announced the winner at a special ceremony hosted by rootEd Missouri following a statewide nomination and selection process.
rootEd Missouri is a collaborative effort among national organization rootEd Alliance, Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC), and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) designed to boost college and career outcomes for students in rural communities by placing dedicated advisors, called rootEd advisors, in rural high schools to provide students with college and career planning support.
“When students graduate with a clear path to a strong career, they unlock opportunities for lifelong prosperity. And when our workforce is highly skilled, our economy thrives, our communities prosper, and our entire state is better positioned for the future,” said Sen. Karla Eslinger, who delivered the keynote address at the awards ceremony. “But this isn’t possible without exemplary advisors like Samantha, who go above and beyond to unlock opportunities for all students. Samantha embodies what it means to be a rootEd advisor, and Missouri is a better place because of her service.”
Among her notable contributions, Towles combined all local scholarship opportunities into one streamlined application; launched an “Adulting 101” class series designed to teach seniors important skills, ranging from how to change a tire to how to register to vote; organized an event to provide assistance to students and families as they completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); and organized student visits to colleges and career programs.
As a result, 99% of the high school’s graduating class created a postsecondary plan, and 64.5% completed the FAFSA, up from 45.4% in 2022. Moreover, 84% of college-bound students from Monett High School said Towles changed their life path in a positive way.
“Without Mrs. Towles, I would not be going to college,” wrote one student in a survey. “Having someone that can assist not only for academics, but for personal life is very helpful.”
“Mrs. Towles has honestly been the biggest blessing to Monett High School,” wrote another student. “She has been able to connect with students like no one else has before. I truly believe that she is the reason most of us [Monett High School] seniors are now so driven to be successful after graduating.”
In addition to naming the Advisor of the Year, rootEd Missouri also awarded Nicole Thomas, the rootEd advisor at Arcadia Valley High School, with the “Innovation Award” for her creative approaches to fostering connections and providing information to students and families, and Ashley Deel, the rootEd advisor at Appleton City High School, with the “110% Award” for going above and beyond to advance rootEd’s mission.
The awards ceremony took place alongside rootEd Missouri’s statewide advisor training. The training brought together about 130 advisors who will serve students at participating high schools during the 2023-2024 school year.
“rootEd believes every student should graduate high school on a path to achieve career success and economic stability, and our rootEd advisors are taking on this important work across more than 130 rural high schools in Missouri.” said rootEd Alliance President Noa Meyer. “rootEd advisors bring incredible creativity, tenacity, and deep knowledge on potential paths after high school to support their students, leading to greater access to financial aid, an increase in enrollment in college and career training programs, and a shift in mindset about what is possible. We are especially impressed with and grateful to Samantha, Nicole, and Ashley, and congratulate them on their well-deserved honors.”
“Research shows students in rural communities, when compared to their peers, face unique barriers to accessing and achieving success after high school. rootEd’s advising model has proven to be an achievable, scalable solution,” said OTC Chancellor Hal Higdon. “These advisors have embraced the rootEd Missouri mission–and exceeded expectations. We are grateful for their dedication to not only their students but to their entire communities.”
“Schools are working to equip students with a high-quality education so they are prepared for life after graduation,” said Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “With the help of partners like rootEd Missouri and advisors like Samantha, Nicole, and Ashley, we can be certain students have the map to get to their next destination and beyond.”
About rootEd Alliance
Every student should graduate high school on a path to achieve career success and economic stability. rootEd Alliance places dedicated college and career advisors in rural high schools to work with all students to define and plan their futures, whether through a college degree, work-based learning, or military service. Launched in 2018 and now operating in Missouri, Texas, and Idaho, 183 rootEd advisors have served 30,000 students at 189 high schools. This approach is working: in the 2022 school year, rootEd schools saw a 13% increase in postsecondary enrollment, while national enrollment rates remained flat over the same time period. rootEd Alliance is made possible by a group of philanthropists and family and founder-led businesses, convened by BDT & MSD Partners. For more information, please visit: https://rootEdAlliance.org.