Name: Jabril Robinson
Position: Career Counselor

Hometown: Greater Boston Area

College Attended: Bridgewater State University (B.A. Psychology); Northeastern University (M.S. College Student Development & Counseling)

Favorite Pastimes/Activities: Running, trying new foods, exploring new career development and diversity-related topics of discussion.

Favorite College Moment: Delivering the undergraduate spring commencement address to thousands of students, families, and faculty upon graduation from BSU.

Best Advice Received About College: The best advice I received was, “Where you go to college doesn’t matter as much as what you do when you get there.” This really speaks to what actionable items one will take on, to leave a positive legacy once you’ve graduated.

What Are Your Campus Meetings Like?
Similar to the other Success Counselors here at Bottom Line, I enjoy engaging with my students on the subject of their academics, career path, financial status, and general life circumstances. As a Career Counselor, the employability part is especially emphasized, in making sure that my students are able to identify, articulate, and develop the skills necessary to pursue their desired career path. Our desired career goals are constantly shaped by those previously mentioned areas so they are all important for my students and I to consider, whether we’re meeting on campus, in the office, over the phone, or another method of communication.

What Is Your Biggest Challenge as a Career Counselor?
There are several challenges as a Career Counselor, and I believe the biggest is articulating the importance of understanding how the “job search” process works. I do my best to have my students see, whether seeking a full time career, a summer internship, or simply a volunteer opportunity, that this should be considered a process, rather than an overnight quick fix. It takes time to develop an understanding of oneself, connect to peers, and identify the right “fit” career-wise, and it’s something that has to be balanced with academic and social demands. If not conducted in a persistent, conscious manner, job searching can be even more challenging than it already is, which can often be a difficult message to convey early on.

What Is the Most Rewarding Aspect of Your Job?
I’m a fan of the destination (i.e. seeing how excited my students are when they acquire the job/internship of their dreams) — who wouldn’t be? However, I view the game of life as more of a marathon than a sprint, so it’s the journey of working with students, helping them gradually discover themselves, connecting with others, and reaching their goals that really makes this job such a valuable experience. It’s always an exciting adventure to form a counseling partnership with a student while working together to help them graduate and go far in a meaningful career. Since we work with such diverse students, no two stories are ever the same. There’s always something new to learn!

-Written by Jabril Robinson, JP Career Team


Name: Elaine Previl

High School: John D O’Bryant

College: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Graduation Year: 2014

Job: Teacher at the New England Center for Children

Favorite Bottom Line Memory: Eating lunch with my Bottom Line counselor, Tory, when he came to visit me at MCLA.

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with: Gift cards to college bookstores (because books are expensive).

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: Bottom Line is a great program and the number of students that it serves and helps with the college process is remarkable. I attribute so much of my success throughout college to Bottom Line.

People would be surprised to learn that I used to: Know nothing about research and now research is what my job mainly consists of. I am now applying to graduate schools that are heavily research based.

The best part of being a college graduate is: Being able to finally commit my time and energy to my interests.

The hardest part about being a college graduate is: Missing the friends I would see every day. We all gained great experience in college and now we are all exploring opportunities near and far.

Join me in supporting Bottom Line by: Connecting to current students to let them know about your career experience.

Elaine Previl is a teacher of children with autism at New England Center for Children (NECC) in Southborough, MA. She is about to begin her second year after spending a semester interning with the school and living on its campus during her senior year of college.

Elaine joined Bottom Line in her senior year of high school while attending the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science in Boston. With the help of Bottom Line, she applied to college and decided to attend Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in North Adams, MA. While in school, Elaine majored in Psychology and was involved in campus life. With support from Bottom Line and career services at MCLA, Elaine sought out an opportunity to spend a semester away, interning at NECC during her senior year. After the amazing experience, she decided to apply for a full-time opportunity after graduation and is now looking into graduate schools to further her education.

Written by Kira Terrill, Worcester Career Team Manager 

Bottom Line – Chicago’s Margy Brill shares her perspective on integrating data into student counseling.


When you think about technology in the context of college access and persistence, a new platform or an app may come to mind. At Bottom Line, we see technology as less of a stand-alone solution and more of a tool that facilitates collecting and analyzing data to help low income, first generation students get into college, graduate from college, and go far in life. Harnessing technology to create carefully monitored data-driven outcomes is central to our DEAL curriculum for college persistence. As a result, it was an enormous honor for College Board President David Coleman to announce Bottom Line as the Personalized Learning Award of Excellence recipient at the National College Access Network (NCAN) 20th Anniversary National Conference based on our data-driven DEAL model.

One person beaming from the audience while Bottom Line Chief Operating Officer Greg Johnson accepted the award was Chicago Senior Success Counselor Margy Brill. A two-year Bottom Line veteran, Margy counseled students in Bottom Line’s Worcester office before joining the founding Bottom Line – Chicago team. “Our DEAL model isn’t rocket science, but it’s how we as an organization have held our counselors and staff accountable for measuring and achieving very strong college persistence outcomes with our students,” Margy said, reflecting on the significance of NCAN recognizing Bottom Line’s approach to ensuring college persistence.

Of course, BoMargy and Justin, NCAN September 2015ttom Line’s participation in the NCAN conference wasn’t limited to the awards ceremony. Margy delivered a presentation called Power In Numbers along with Justin Strasburger, Bottom Line’s National Success Program Director. The session focused on using data to make informed decisions and drive results for student success.

“We want organizations to make sure that their programs are actually working, and the best way to do this is to effectively and efficiently measure, collect, and analyze data.”

Since joining Bottom Line in July 2013, Margy has used data to determine if students are on track to graduate and go far in a way that provides a high level of organizational accountability. On a day-to-day basis, for Margy that means meeting and talking with students, documenting those interactions, and monitoring outcomes. “Through this process I can ensure that I prioritize contacting students who are facing the most challenges. Using data also helps me be more efficient, which in turn increases my capacity to serve my students better.”

After a year of helping low income, first generation college students in Chicago, the Kalamazoo College alumna is proud of the progress that the Chicago team has made. Many of the higher education administrators Margy had initial conversations with a year ago were surprised by how much data Bottom Line counselors track and measure for each individual student. “One specific question I remember getting a lot was how we were able to keep students engaged with our program. Administrators kept wondering what kind of incentives we gave our students, such as a scholarship. When we explained the level of in-person, individualized support we have the capacity to give each student, they were able to see how we’re able to help students and maintain strong relationships with them without incentives.”

We believe that this intensive, one-on-one approach delivered by our full-time, trained counselors makes all the difference. In Chicago, it already has. Last year, 100% of our inaugural class of high school seniors in the Access program were accepted into college. 97% were accepted to a 4-year college compared to 29% of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students, according to a report released from the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago in December 2014. In the Success program, 96% our first cohort of college freshmen persisted into their second year of college. Nationally, 84% of students in Bottom Line’s Success program graduate from college in 6 years or less, which is more than four times the 14% college graduation rate for CPS students.

Bottom Line – Chicago’s inaugural 2014-2015 class of over 150 low income, first generation students came from 70 Chicago high schools and 50 different neighborhoods. During our second year in Chicago, we have more than doubled the students served to almost 350 with ambitious plans to serve over 2,500 Chicago students by 2020.

This week, Bottom Line Success Counselors are meeting with college students on campus while Access Counselors are providing support to high school students in preparation for hitting “submit.” As we begin the start of the school year, we decided to get some counselor perspectives on their first meetings with students. Below are some of the highlights from the past two weeks of student meetings!

Jabril Robinson – Success Counselor – Bridgewater State, WIT, Boston University

“It feels like you’re giving back. I love being on my alma mater campus and interacting with students and seeing familiar faces. I’ll see old professors or staff walking around and it makes me really excited to be there. I enjoy helping out students who go to my alma mater. It’s a lot of fun to be around that same atmosphere.”

Kate Fiori – Success Counselor – Northeastern University, UMass Dartmouth, Suffolk University

“A highlight from the week was meeting with one of my students and talking about his love for UMass Dartmouth. He’s learned so much from the school and is really excited about graduating. We’re always discussing what he wants to do in the future. He hopes to one day work with children and apply what he’s learned at UMass Dartmouth to his professional life.”

Perry Hull – Senior Success Counselor – Roxbury Community College, Bunker Hill Community College

“This week I met with an administrator at RCC and we discussed the ways in which we could better support students. She was super helpful in providing resources that we need while on campus and it’s always great to meet with leaders of the schools whose campuses we are on. During my campus visits the past two weeks, I’ve been focused on making sure students’ health insurance is set, making sure their bills are paid and ensuring they feel good about their classes. During meetings I try to have them think ahead about how long they want to stay at community college and prepare them for next steps.”

Kira Terril – Career Team Manager

“With my students, we are really hitting the ground running. I have a lot of fall grads so there is a big focus on getting students ready to apply for jobs and life after graduation. It’s great to see them come back from their summers and see how much they’ve changed from internships. I get to see how much more prepared they are for their careers.”

Evan Soken – Access Counselor

“I like first meetings in general. It’s an awesome chance to get students engaged with the program and get them excited about Bottom Line. During first meetings we’re able to lay out the college application process and get students excited about Bottom Line. It can be an enlightening process for them in the beginning.”

Theresa Pickens – Senior Access Counselor

“I’ve been working on helping students with their Posse and QuestBridge applications. I’ve enjoyed seeing what schools all my students are applying to and helping them work through which schools they will attend. During the summer most students aren’t thinking about the college application process, but then the school year comes around and they realize how soon the process begins. Two students in particular come to mind. They’re great students. It’s cool to go through the college application writing process with them and watch them evolve in their writing.”


2015 Worcester Send Off - Worcester State Students

Bottom Line Worcester students at The Hanover Insurance Group

Two hundred and sixty-five students were celebrated and supported at Bottom Line’s Success Send Offs this August.

Students attending Central or Western Massachusetts schools were celebrated with an open space perfect for group activities at The Hanover Insurance Group, who hosted the event. Paul Belsito, VP of Community Engagement at Hanover, welcomed students to the space. Linda St. John introduced Dr. Melinda Boone, Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools, who gave a powerful speech about the college transition. Bottom Line Alumna and current Success Counselor, Abena Mensah, also offered encouraging words of advice to incoming first-year students, urging them to take advantage of opportunities on campus, reach out for support, and be intentional about their time in college. She drove home her key point by explaining that students “have a different level of responsibility now, and even though you should try your best to enjoy the ride, make sure that at the end of your college journey, there are major professional and academic successes you can be proud of.”

Bottom Line Northeastern students at Boston’s Success Send-Off

Students going to schools in the Boston area were greeted with views of the Boston Main Channel, sailboats, and a room adorned in teal and white balloons, all provided by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Bottom Line Executive Director Mike Wasserman introduced Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., Ph.D. Chairman, President and CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, who gave an eye-opening speech on “beliefs, feelings, and the Truth with a capital T,” imploring students to search for their own personal Truth in college. He was followed by Dr. Tommy Chang, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools and Martin Meehan, President of the University of Massachusetts System. Bottom Line Alumna and Board Member Christal Fenton-Fortes, who recounted her college experience as a tale for going forward, wrapped up the night’s speeches.

Students at both events built connections with peers, mingled through games, and developed school pride by creating chants and cheers. Another great success!

Written by Lindsay Hough, Bottom Line Success Counselor


Success Counselor, Cara and 2015 Bottom Line Graduate, Najma at Recognition Night in Boston.

Senior Recognition Night is a chance to honor graduating seniors for their hard work and perseverance in earning their college degrees. This year’s events were graciously hosted by Bottom Line corporate partners State Street in Boston and Bowditch & Dewey in Worcester.

On June 3rd, 2015, Worcester area graduates, family members, friends, staff, and supporters gathered at Bowditch & Dewey to commemorate the graduates. They heard from keynote speaker Second Worcester District Senator Michael Moore and from Framingham University 015 graduate, Brittany Booker. Similarly, on June 15th, 2015, Boston-area graduates heard from keynote speaker Chris Gabrieli, Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, and from Bottom Line student and recent Suffolk University graduate, Najma Hussain.

This was an exciting evening as many of Bottom Line’s graduating seniors are the first in their families to receive a bachelor’s degree. For some students, the path to earning a college degree was a challenging journey of hard work, uncertainty, and promise. Today, however, the final phase of Bottom Line’s motto, to “Get In, Graduate, and Go Far”, is where the Bottom Line class of 2015 now finds itself, having crossed the stage, diploma in hand, armed with the skills necessary to pursue a career in their field. Now more than 200 Bottom Line graduates are joining a growing network of more than 1,000 alumni.

Najma Hussain, a graduating senior from Suffolk University, was the student speaker for the evening. She shared her story of moving to the United States, learning English, the lessons she is taking with her from her college experience, and her hopes for her future career: “I started Bottom Line with the process of applying to college, and this year with Bottom Line, I completed the law school application process– I will be starting law school at Suffolk Law in the fall. With my law degree I want to promote social justice, coexistence, and mutual understanding. Everyone has a voice, and that voice counts toward societal changes that make a better world for all of us, regardless of our race, gender, and religious identity.” Along with Najma, today we celebrate all of the inspirational Bottom Line graduates—of whom we are very proud.

As Bottom Line counselors, we provide our students with a little bit of support and encouragement in a few key areas. But ultimately all the credit belongs to these young adults, whose commitment and resilience, from late nights studying in the library, to working long shifts to help pay tuition, is what has brought them to where they are today. Congratulations to the class of 2015!

Written by Erin O’Donnell, Bottom Line Success Counselor


Bottom Line Success Students at 2015 College Expo.

On Saturday, March 14, 2015, Bottom Line launched its 3rd Annual College Expo at the Reggie Lewis Center. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Bottom Line students, and members of the local community attended the event. The College Expo helps students make an informed decision about which college they want to attend. What made the event unique was that Bottom Line had student representatives from each of our twenty target schools. Students from schools like Boston College, Northeastern University, UMass Amherst, Boston University any many more were there to share their current experiences as a college student and answer any general questions.

Baker and Student

Governor Charlie Baker at Bottom Line College Expo.

Students left feeling more confident and less weary of the college decision-making process.“I had a student who was reluctant to apply to a certain school because hadn’t heard great things about the campus. She spoke to some students at the expo who gave her a different perspective the college and diversity on campus. I think she walked away more open-minded and less apprehensive about wanting to go to that particular college,” said Access Counselor Emily Nolan.

Success students demonstrated strong leadership skills and provided important insight for high school students. “I felt proud watching my current Success students take on a leadership role to help guide younger students towards a positive college choice. Our Success students drew on their admissions experiences, they listened attentively to the high school students and offered sound advice,” said Success Team Manager Amy Markarian.

Written by Salem Gebrezgi


Students practice interview skills at the Boston Go Far Forum.

This month Bottom Line – MA hosted Go Far Forum events in Boston and Worcester. More than 500 college students, graduates and local professionals gathered at the Sheraton Boston to participate in Bottom Line’s seventh annual Go Far Forum on January 6th. Sponsors of the Boston Go Far Forum included State Street, Liberty Mutual, Sun Life Financial, BNY Mellon, Boston Children’s Hospital, iRobot and Wicked Smart. In total, 32 companies, nonprofits, and professional associations had exhibitions at the event.

Bottom Line Worcester hosted their Go Far Forum at the DCU Center on January 9th with more than 100 Worcester college students, graduates, and local professionals in attendance. Fallon Health, Hanover Insurance Group, National Grid, Nypro, a Jabil Company and Saint-Gobain sponsored the event. In total, 18 companies and nonprofits were in attendance.


Students attend career fair in Worcester.

Students at both events participated in mock interviews with volunteer professionals, attended round table discussions with human resource professionals, listened to job search panels, and met with representatives from companies and professional organizations at a career fair.

The Go Far Forum provides students with an exciting opportunity to explore different career paths, gain professional skills and network with experts in their field.


Over the past 10 years it’s become clear that the work to increase the public high school graduation rates and lower drop-out rates has had an impact, as 80% of students from the high school class of 2012 earned their diploma as the US Dept. of Education reported in their April 2014 report. However, these improvements have not translated to college success for students from low-income households. For almost 40 years the college graduation rate for low-income students has remained flat at about 20%.

Bottom Line has been squarely focused on the issues of college access and success for low-income students for almost twenty years. We know that the solution to improving the college success rate for low-income students won’t come easily. We are pleased to see more attention being paid to the disparity between the “Rich and the Poor”, as in this week’s Wall Street Journal article, Big Gap in College Graduation Rates for Rich and Poor, and the recent study, Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States published by the University of Pennsylvania and the Pell Institute for Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.

As with the improvement of the national public high school graduation rates, the factors that relate to college success are complex. There is no quick fix or low-cost intervention that will solve the problem. However, we have identified one key differentiator that we believe leads to long-term college success and that is the importance of having an experienced family member, mentor or counselor to whom students can turn to when faced with a challenge.

Through nearly two decades of work supporting students through college, we have learned that virtually all of the challenges faced by low-income college students fall in to four categories:  Academics, Career Development, Affordability, and Social/Emotional.  Our DEAL Model for college success is built around this framework. When students are faced with challenges from one or more of these categories, they need a trusted resource to provide guidance, and a strategy as they work to overcome the challenges they face. Bottom Line can be that resource for some or many of those students, but we need a national investment of time, talent and resources to help.

Questions? Thoughts? Share them with us here!  



Alcoa executives and Bottom Line students who attended the career event

Alcoa executives and Bottom Line students who attended the career event

Every year, January turns into “career month” for our college students at Bottom Line – New York. This month, there were a variety of career events for our nearly 800 college students to attend while they were home on break. In addition to the Go Far Forum, our signature career readiness event that is held annually, we offered a number of smaller career events at the offices of our corporate partners.

One of those events took place at Alcoa, a global leader in lightweight metals technology, engineering and manufacturing. Alcoa CFO Bill Oplinger, a Bottom Line – New York Board member, kicked off the event by reminding students that “where you start won’t be where you end up,” encouraging students to consider jobs that they might not originally have thought about and to stretch themselves professionally – a theme that his colleagues echoed throughout the day.

To learn more about one student’s impressions and takeaways, read Bottom Line student Shaquille Bent’s account of the day and how he plans to apply what he learned at the Alcoa career event going forward.

Name:  Shaquille Bent

College: SUNY Buffalo State

College Year: Senior

You’ve been to a few career events with Bottom Line now – how did this one compare to past ones you’ve attended?

This one with Alcoa was extraordinary. In a way, it was more hands-on because we got to interact one-on-one with senior executives at Alcoa from very different departments and hear about their career path. It was unique because I got personal feedback on things that I did well and things that I can improve on during that one-on-one career coaching.

Shaq receiving one-on-one career coaching from one of our Alcoa volunteers

Shaq receiving one-on-one career coaching from one of our Alcoa volunteers

What were some of your favorite parts of the career event at Alcoa?

I did research before the event because I had not previously heard of Alcoa. So, it was great to learn more about a company that I didn’t know about before. I really enjoyed hearing about people’s career paths, and I learned that what you study in college does not necessarily determine what type of job you get. My favorite part was the one-on-one conversation with Guru (an Alcoa employee), because he had a similar career path to the one I want. He studied mechanical engineering; I’m studying industrial technology. He also has a MBA, and I’m interested in obtaining one too.

What was the most intimidating or most challenging part of the event for you?

I don’t feel like there was a really intimidating part because Bottom Line has helped me really prepare for events like these. If I were still a freshman, I probably would have been much shyer and not known how to interact with everyone. I definitely wanted to make a good impression on the Alcoa executives, though!

What were some of your key takeaways?

First, I remember Sue (another volunteer from Alcoa) saying how important it was to “make sure you stretch yourself and go after all opportunities.” Guru said the same thing – to look into opportunities outside of the state where you live, to be flexible, to take risks, and do things out of the ordinary. All of the Alcoa employees that we met with have achieved professional success; they inspired me to want the same for myself.

Second, Daniel from Alcoa said that you need to find mentors and keep relationships alive. That was really important for me too. I feel like I’ve started to do that, but I’ve struggled with how to keep the relationship alive. They gave us some specific examples for what to do, like sending an email every now and then just to check in, so that you can build “a repository of advocates” as Daniel said.

What types of careers are you considering, and how did this event help you prepare for them?

I’m thinking long-term about becoming a project director or project manager. Right out of college, I think I want to be an analyst somewhere and gain experience in the business world. I can then interact with professionals as well as other project managers and learn from them. Down the line, I also want an MBA.

This event helped me prepare for that by learning about other successful business professionals’ career paths. They shared their stories about how they got to where they are. They all had very different paths, so I realized that you have to be open to all opportunities because you never know where they might lead.

Any advice for students who are graduating from college soon and starting to make plans for their careers?

One thing that I’ve learned throughout my college career is that you have to network. Networking can open up a whole range of opportunities that you never thought existed.

You also have to find mentors and keep the relationship alive. You can learn a lot from mentors because they have lots of experience and the knowledge that they share with you can help you find a career.