Alumna Profile

From Start to Finish

Amma Felix heads Collegiate Directions, a college access and completion service that excels with a holistic approach.

Amma Felix
Amma Felix

You can prepare a student to qualify for, apply to, afford, attend, or persist in college. But for low-income, first-generation-to-college students, you must do it all. “Our goal is to help them not only make it into college, but make it through college,” says Amma Felix ’01 MPA, president of Collegiate Directions Inc.

CDI is an extraordinarily successful nonprofit in the Metro D.C. area whose secret, Felix says, is a holistic approach. Students apply for CDI as rising high school juniors. If selected, they are counseled for the full six years to a college degree—more than 200 hours of contact. Beyond typical pre-college services—e.g., test readiness, college-application coaching, financial aid search—CDI focuses on the engagement of family, where there is often “no frame of reference” for the challenges of college. Also, there is a college “match versus fit” assessment. “Is it the right learning environment for them,” Felix says. “Are the right services available on campus?” After a student matriculates, monthly check-ins continue; they include mental health and career counseling. About 50 CDI scholars join each year. Since 2005, 97 percent of them have graduated from highly selective colleges and universities, paying less than $1,900 out-of-pocket.

Felix came to CDI by way of the field of community development in New York City and then the United Negro College Fund. “As a nation, we need to invest in our young people,” she says. “How do we remain competitive in a rapidly changing global economy if we don’t?”

By Dana Cooke