Top Stories

Foundation Friday: Bottom Line, Braven empower students to shape their futures

Bottom Line and Braven assist students in their burgeoning lives with support from the NBA Foundation.

NBA Foundation grantees, Bottom Line and Braven, mold youth to achieve their goals in and out of the classroom.

As high school seniors across the country celebrated National College Decision Day on May 1, many were still in limbo, waiting to finalize their college plans due to delays in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process.

The FAFSA, which determines a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid, is a critical step in the college application journey. The pandemic’s lingering effects have caused significant disruptions this year, with FAFSA completion rates lagging behind previous years.

Officials at organizations like Bottom Line and Braven say they help guide and empower students to navigate their academic and professional journeys with purpose and confidence.

Bottom Line recent graduates are earning 50% more than their family income in their first job out of college.

“We encourage our students and their families to make an affordable choice,” said Shanita Nichols, managing director of development at Bottom Line.

“Our goal for each student is to accrue limited debt, less than $31,000 over the course of their college career.”

Nichols said Bottom Line’s advisors meet with students individually to support them through every step of the college application and financial aid process, ensuring they make an affordable and well-informed decision.

The Bottom Line’s “Access advisors” support high school seniors, based on their individual needs, in navigating every step of the college application process using Bottom Line’s LEAD (list, essay, applications and aid and decision) curriculum, Nichols said. Next, “Success advisors” provide personalized, on-campus guidance to ensure students have the skills and knowledge to persist and graduate college with a career plan using Bottom Line’s DEAL (degree, employability, affordability, and life) curriculum. 

For Lionald Cheristil, a Bottom Line Massachusetts Access student, the process taught him much more than just the application process.

“Before I started applying to college, I would have considered myself very patient and calm,” Cheristil said. “But the college application process is long and challenging and thinking about where I would spend the next four years was anxiety-inducing.

“My Bottom Line advisor helped me to be patient with each application, and to understand that my future self would thank me for taking the time to make the right decision.”

Choosing a college is just the first step. Bottom Line’s approach has demonstrated results as, on average, the program says its recent graduates earn 50% more than their family income in their first job out of college. 

Braven’s statistics prove their success as their students graduate college at a 91% rate.

However, the decision-making process doesn’t end once a student enrolls and arrives on campus. Braven’s 15-week “Accelerator” course provides college students with intense skill development, goal-setting and access to networks to make informed decisions to achieve long-term success.

Aimée Eubanks Davis, founder and CEO of Braven, shared how her upbringing inspired her to create an organization supporting first-generation college students. 

“I really wanted to pay it forward into the Black community,” she said. “And so I started teaching, and then taught for a community-based organization and then taught for seven years.

“I just got to see lots of young people grow up who had done everything right, everything every teacher, preacher or parent told them to do. Basically, they then come out of higher education struggling to get strong jobs.”

Eubanks Davis says Braven pairs small cohorts of college students with volunteer coaches, creating a supportive team environment focused on developing professional skills and securing meaningful post-graduation opportunities.

Many Braven fellows are first-generation college students or from underserved backgrounds, who are empowered with the tools they need to overcome barriers during their undergraduate studies and afterward.

This team-based model seems to be proving effective, with Braven students persisting in college and graduating at a 91% rate, which exceeds the national average (which was at 62% as of 2022). Furthermore, 76% of Braven graduates are out-earning their parents at the same age.

“There’s nothing quite like it,” Eubanks Davis said. “You’re a part of a team that is a unit.”

This team-like dynamic is a key part of the college experience, where students collaborate to support each other while building their professional portfolios and networks. The students see this as a unique and valuable aspect of the college experience, similar to how a sports team works towards a common goal.

Although students make their final college decisions, organizations like Bottom Line and Braven provide vital support to ensure they gain access to higher education as well as have the resources and community to succeed and thrive.