Program Spotlight: A.L.A.S.

As part of New Urban Art’s 25th Anniversary, we will be spotlighting current programs and initiatives across the organization. For our fifth month, we are highlighting our ALAS program with an interview with Addy, our ALAS Coordinator, and Lateefat, a graduating senior who can often be found sitting across from Addy and talking about life after high school.


What is ALAS at NUA?

Addy: It stands for A Life After School and it is NUA’s post-secondary support program. I’m the coordinator and I help students plan for their life after high school: college, job support, learning new trades, etc.


Why is it important for a place like NUA to have ALAS?

Lateefat: A lot of times in school there is a lack of that support, especially at a bigger school where there are 4 counselors for 1,000 students. That’s like 250 students per counselor and that’s a lot for them to do! There’s only so much we can do on our own so it’s nice to have one-on-one support to keep me accountable.


What are some highlights from this last year in the ALAS program?

Lateefat: It helped me not just apply to college, but do so in a way that I was able to apply to all of the colleges I was interested in early-action. It made a scary impossible thing feel more manageable. Senior year is so stressful and I was burnt out from APs and scholarship applications and so many other things. It made me feel like I could actually do it—I think without that support, I wouldn’t have been able to apply to half those things. Sometimes I felt so tired I didn’t want to hold a pencil, but I wanted to make sure for each ALAS meeting that I always had one thing to show so that kept me motivated to keep checking off a few boxes.

Addy: A lot has happened this year. In the fall we had college visits from admissions officers from a variety of different colleges. We had a bunch of workshops on topics like financial aid, scholarships, résumés, and alternatives for students who don’t want college. We also had a series of financial literacy workshops for the first time… we collaborated with the FLY Initiative. A NEACAC grant helped us be able to pay students to attend those workshops which was really great. We’ve also been partnering with Crafting the Future to provide opportunities for our BIPOC students and alums to attend art workshops around the country. We’ve really been trying to boost our alumni support so we’ve got a newsletter going and are keeping in touch with all of them a lot more.


What have you utilized ALAS services for and how has ALAS played a role in your high school life?

Lateefat: I used it mainly to keep me on pace to set those deadlines and hit them. It was like having a gym buddy: this person is going to be there at this time. It helped me get things done a lot earlier and motivated me to do it. Then during school breaks I got to take an actual break instead of stressing on all the stuff I would have been behind on.

Addy: Lateefat was very proactive which was awesome. 

Lateefat: Some of it is so daunting. I heard about the common app a million times but no one actually told me what it was. Addy and I looked through it together and we broke it down into manageable pieces and made it approachable. It’s not that bad! Tedious maybe, but not that bad—especially compared to scholarships haha.


What advice would you give your self-from-last-year?

Lateefat: I would tell myself to slow down a little bit. It did work out, but I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get things in at the earliest date. Scholarships was another one: researching them before they open would have been helpful because they don’t give you much time to get everything together.


What would you tell students who have not yet utilized ALAS services?

Lateefat: Just do it, even if you might not go to college, Addy can help you do whatever you’re thinking about doing. The financial literacy workshop was a bunch of stuff I didn’t know and it was great. Even one meeting can make a big difference. I feel like not utilizing ALAS is like not picking up $20 off the floor.

Addy: Or $1000 sometimes, haha. ALAS can be for whatever you want it for. It’s really just about you and your goals and whatever you’re trying to navigate in life. I think of myself as a connector so I just want to plug you in to resources or cool programs.


Lateefat, you also participated in the summer College Explorations program with Addy, what was that like?

Lateefat: It helped me break down aspects of colleges I was interested in and make sense of them because there are so many details. I was college-bound crazy, so I watched a lot of videos and it was so much information. 


Is college everything ALAS does?

Addy: No! College is only one part of what we do, we support students who don’t want to go to college or aren’t sure—it might just not be a good fit! We have hosted a variety of career exploration workshops including “Careers in the Arts” which brought in a lot of professionals working in the arts, some of whom have gone to college, some not, to give examples of what different paths after high school might look like.

Lateefat: I would just say if there are any students wondering if they should bother making a meeting with Addy, even if you don’t want to go to college or even know what you want to talk about, it’s so great to talk to someone who isn’t your parents to help you understand what you want, even if it’s just what you want to do right now or this summer. Addy can connect you to painting programs and help you even if that’s not your career. I was into fashion but I was afraid because I also want financial stability and Addy helped me find that there are programs like fashion marketing or business programs that can apply to fashion that made me feel more comfortable pursuing those dreams. And they helped me make my first résumé!

Addy: What’s gratifying for me is seeing how knowledge and education changes people’s lives. Even a small thing can make a big impact.