Poverty disrupts education. Since this disruption exists at all levels of education from early childhood through higher education, we can not become complacent as our graduates mature that the trauma of poverty will just fade away. With this mindset, NativityMiguel Schools develop a college-going identity in our students in which college is the plan, not just a dream, and our Graduate Support program continues to counter the effects of poverty with intentional and purposeful supports.
Always learning to become better, several Graduate Support Directors attended the National College Access Network (NCAN) conference in Detroit this fall and offer the following takeaways for how we best serve and advocate for our graduates:
Reading is everything. More and more, young people have disengaged from literature and Graduate Support can provide another opportunity to improve reading fluency. Also, re-engaging graduates with material they like to read allows our graduates to define who they are, reinforces their resiliency, and enables them to help others succeed.
Future Problem Solvers: As society and technology rapidly changes, Jaime Casap from Google suggested asking graduates “What problem do you want to solve?” rather than “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The challenge is to ambitiously think big.
Remedial Prior to College: Statistically, putting students in remedial classes in college is setting them up for not completing a degree program. Graduate Support needs to proactively inform curriculum and instruction in the middle and high school years so students aren’t faced with remedial classes later.
Invite Parents on the Bus: Graduate Support needs to educate parents on the college process as well. If families have not been asked to accompany their children on college trips, what messages are we sending? Parents may be uncomfortable sending their children to places they have never been themselves. College visits can also be an opportune time to familiarize them with the entire process such as understanding the purpose and importance of an ACT Prep classes for our graduates or why we need to give your financial information to a stranger.
Survey Seniors: It is recommended that Graduate Support survey seniors every year by late April or early May or even earlier if the intention is to do any intervention. This information will be helpful to developing individualized post-secondary plans. For example, if a senior indicates that he/she is enrolling in a 2 year college, the survey would ask if he/she plans to transfer to a 4 year college.
Know the Right Questions to Ask Colleges: Utilize college admissions offices to better understand a breakdown of their success, and be strategic in forming partnerships. Where do our students go most often? Where is there already a critical mass of students similar to our graduates? Who else at the college will have a vested interest in our graduates’ success? Knowing the right details, such as whether there is a shared advising space at a college, is critical.
Measure Up: Be consistent in measuring outcomes that align with your narrative of student success. How do we define and measure persistence? For example, do we know what percentage of graduates persist to the second year of college? Is graduation within 150% of program length valid (ie. 3 years for a 2-year program, 6 years for a 4-year program)?
Become a FAFSA Expert: Federal Student Aid has a power point presentation for seniors and parents called the FSA Toolkit online. When applying for a FSA ID, click on “show password” and have a student take a picture of the screen along with the challenge questions. This eliminates students and parents forgetting passwords/logins and having to re-set. Completion rate is much better when the FSA ID was done at the same time as the FAFSA.
In order to break the cycle of poverty through faith-based education, our grads need to access and complete post-secondary opportunities that lead them to their professional and personal ambitions. With this aim, Graduate Support is staffed with the right people implementing high-leverage supports and proven solutions. This will be our focus as Graduate Support Professionals from across the NativityMiguel Coalition gather in Tucson in January 2017.