College Center adapts to virtual learning: counselors offer open one-hour advising

Parents gather around College Advisors Davonta Lee and Marcus Stewart in the College Career Center after a meeting during the 2019-20 school year.

Photo provided by Mr. Lee

Parents gather around College Advisors Davonta Lee and Marcus Stewart in the College Career Center after a meeting during the 2019-20 school year.

Nicole Miranda, Reporter

Devonta Lee closes his laptop and slowly rubs his eyes before Cardinal Hour. He looks around the room and gazes at the multitude of university flags, which fill all four walls from corner to corner. While his coworkers are eating lunch, he works silently in his office to consult with students about college. 

In a span of 30 minutes, Lee, Bellaire’s College Access Coordinator, has already seen 10 students, each with their own ambitions, goals and dream schools. It’s his job to help them achieve these dreams. 

“I’m the most proud at the end of the year when I get to celebrate the students who made a decision to better themselves after graduation,” Lee said. “I get to celebrate the students going away for the first time, students who are first generation, students who are going to prestigious colleges, and students who are chasing their dreams.”

Lee and College Success Advisor Marcus Stewart reach out to students in their sophomore years. By holding a 10th grade informational session in the spring, they inform students on what to work on during high school. For juniors, Lee and Stewart arrange fall and spring meetings. 

Juniors get information on how to prepare for college entrance exams by using free online sources like Khan Academy and ACT Academy. Students also receive information about college research sites like BigFuture and, which can help when creating a personal college list. The counselors also suggest that juniors work on their senior brag sheet and resume, which are used when asking teachers for letters of recommendations. 

For seniors, meetings take place multiple times throughout the year. Lunch sessions are available, and students can even be called out of class to hold a one-on-one meeting. 

This year, because of the new online learning environment, the College Center has adapted its way of helping students through the application process. 

“This year, we are really leaning into emails, which is such an old school way of communicating, however it is the preferred method of communication of most college professors and administrators, so if students can get in the habit of sorting, reading, and responding to emails before leaving high school, it will open up a world of possibilities and connections,” Lee said. “Additionally, the College Center has boosted its texting initiative, partnering with HISD to send specialized text to students to help them move along the college application process.”

Lee and Stewart have also created a Microsoft Teams channel and offer open advising hours Monday – Thursday. Students can join the BHS College Center channel and ask any questions within a one-hour open session. 

According to Lee, Bellaire High School was one of the first schools in the district to provide on campus aid for seniors with their college applications, and less than five other counselors have held the spot at Bellaire. 

“The Bellaire College Center has been around since the early 2000s, “ Lee said. “ I have been a part of the college center since 2016, so this is my fifth year here.”  

Prior to becoming a counselor for Bellaire, Lee earned his bachelor of arts degree from Texas A&M University in 2013. He majored in sociology and minored in Spanish. 

“Originally when I applied to TAMU, I wanted to study psychology, but the major was filled. Instead I was put in my second choice major, sociology, and it turned out to be the best fitting major for me. I never turned back,” Lee said. 

As a university student, he helped raise money for homeless shelters by hosting the school’s very own “So You Think You Can Dance” event, and he participated in a Spanish language department event to connect students with their professors called “Cafe Con Los Profes.” 

Lee’s university experiences ultimately led him to his current position. Through the Aggie Recruitment Committee, Lee helped recruit and connect with freshman applicants of TAMU. He informed freshmen about the history of the school and spoke about the importance of leadership and education. 

“This helped me realize that I love recruiting and led me to my current position,” Lee said. 

For Stewart, his college career started at Northwest Missouri State University where he majored in computer science. During his third year at Northwest Missouri State University, Stewart chose a different career choice. He soon transferred to Missouri State University and received his bachelor’s of science in communications and mass media. 

During his university years, Stewart dedicated his time to football, and his most memorable university moment was with his teammates. 

“It was my sophomore year when my team won the Division II National Football Championship,” Stewart said. “That was an amazing feeling and one of my favorite achievements.”

 As a college football player and communications major, Stewart learned how to manage his studies and focus on his passion. It was important for him to do well in order to be able to play with his team. Stewart also joined the Allegiance of Black Collegians and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. 

“Learning how to manage your time effectively is an obstacle that just about every college student will face,” Stewart said. “You are on your own and have to stay on top of your coursework while still trying to be involved and possibly work.” 

Together the two counselors manage the College Center and provide resources to students such as one-on-one advising, family advising, help on building a college list, help with college applications and reviewing essays, and help with financial aid and scholarships. 

“I wish I would’ve taken advantage of more scholarship applications when I applied,” Stewart said. “It honestly wasn’t until I started working in the Bellaire College Center that I realized how many scholarships are available for students.” 

 According to Lee, the goal of the College Center provides higher education access to all BHS students and families, and to work closely with other campuses and district departments to create and maintain a college-bound culture. 

“We help all students regardless of their academic background, prior college knowledge, or grade level,” Lee said. 

The College Center also provides students with opportunities to interact with colleges and their representatives. During lunch, representatives from universities such as John Hopkins and Rice set up booths next to the College Center and inform prospective students. In the fall, the annual College Fair takes place at Bellaire, where spokespeople from 200 plus universities gather to attract future applicants. 

“Bellaire is a very large high school, and thus we attract a lot of talent and colleges. We are proud to host over 200 colleges each year, the largest college fair in HISD,” Lee said. 

Although Lee said that this year has been very different and challenging for BHS students, the College Center has adapted to help Class of 2021 seniors. 

“There is no perfect journey to your goals. As long as you have set the goal and are actively moving in a forward direction, you are doing okay,” Lee said.