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Local: Education

Free coaching available for low-income students

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Local,Education,Lisa Gartner

Some college coaches are dedicating portions of their practice to pro bono work for low-income students.

One year after Nina Marks founded Marks Education, she began the nonprofit Collegiate Directions to help Maryland public school students who qualify for free or reduced lunch plans prepare for college. Through a competitive application progress, Collegiate Directions admits about 25 students each year for both counseling and tutoring.

Marks says she splits her time evenly between her private practice and pro bono work.

"I used to be a teacher, you know, and the core value is that just because you lack resources and income doesn't mean you should lack choice," Marks says.

In its first class of students, Collegiate Directions took on Merab Okeyo, a senior at Bethesda's Walter Johnson High School who had come to the U.S. from Kenya in 2002. Because of her visa status, Okeyo wasn't eligible for federal financial aid.

The nonprofit helped Okeyo finance her education through merit scholarships and, when those fell through, connected her with a job so that she could work her way through the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

She graduated this year with a degree in nursing and was presented with an award for "the baccalaureate student who consistently demonstrated an outstanding level of professional nursing practice and caring for patients."

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