Alumna Shares the Possibilities of College

As executive director of College Possible Milwaukee, Kellie Sigh ’10 is dedicated to helping students get to college and persist through graduation day. She knows how valuable the coaching-intensive program is because she experienced her own stumbles en route to her bachelor’s degree.

“I would’ve benefited greatly if I had a College Possible coach working with me,” she says. “Even coming from a family where both parents had college degrees, being an only child and in a single-parent home, I still had to figure out a lot on my own. I needed someone to talk with and walk with me along the path. I really do believe that a college coach would’ve made a difference for me.”

It wasn’t until Sigh’s kids were in middle school that she decided to try again, this time at Alverno. She graduated with a degree in professional communication and was mistress of ceremonies at commencement. Throughout her career, first in corporate customer relations roles and then in K-12 education, she stayed connected to her alma mater. She has served as a mentor and external assessor at Alverno and was recently inducted into the Vanguard Society, which honors alumnae who have distinguished themselves in their careers and community.

“The Vanguard Society is interested in providing support, mentorship and encouragement to the undergraduate students of Alverno College. This focus aligns perfectly with the work that I am involved in at College Possible and resonates with me on a personal level. I believe strongly that ‘to whom much is given, much is required,’” she says. “Now, as a member of the Vanguard Society, I am able to offer support to Alverno women as they navigate through their college career. There were people who cheered me on along the way and I want to do the same for others, especially young women of color.”

In addition, Sigh is again an Alverno student, pursuing a Doctorate in Education (EdD).

“Going back to Alverno was a no-brainer,” says Sigh, who previously worked in administration at Milwaukee Public Schools. “My experience as an undergrad at Alverno was very, very positive, and the focus on the 8 Abilities definitely paid off at MPS when I worked as director of strategic partnerships and customer service. Skills like public speaking, problem-solving and teamwork really came together at MPS.”

Now that she’s more advanced in her career, she appreciates the EdD program’s emphasis on transformational leadership. “I liked the idea of continuing to fine-tune my skills as a leader and to receive new learnings and turn around and apply those new learnings to my craft, in addition to studying an area that’s specifically interesting to me,” says Sigh, who is writing her dissertation on women of color in leadership.

Sigh joined College Possible in May 2020 and is excited to support education in a different way. Milwaukee is the second oldest and largest site for College Possible, which uses AmeriCorps members as “near-peer” mentors who coach students from their junior year of high school through their senior year of college. College Possible Milwaukee serves more than 800 high school students and 1,200 college students from underrepresented backgrounds: 96% are students of color and 93% are the first in their families to go to college. Participants’ average family income is $29,000.

“The mission of College Possible is what makes it super special,” Sigh says. “Our goal is to really attack the degree divide. Scholars who come from more affluent backgrounds are two to three times more likely to graduate from college than those who come from lower-income backgrounds.”

The program is successful: Nearly all of its participants go onto college. Now Sigh is focused on raising awareness of the organization’s work and building strategic partnerships.

While it hasn’t been easy to juggle her doctoral work alongside a new job during a pandemic, Sigh says Alverno’s strong sense of community has helped. Her program’s cohort exchanged phone numbers and started texting each other the first night of class. “Everyone is pulling for each other,” she says. “The sense of community and collaboration and selfless support at Alverno is so refreshing and encouraging in a time when you don’t see that often.”

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