Thursday, July 28, 2011

Higher Achievement and Reach for College! Launch 9th Grade Institute

This summer, Higher Achievement, in partnership with Reach for College!, piloted the first-ever 9th Grade Institute for rising 9th grade alumni. The program was intended to aid with the often-difficult transition to high school for students attending schools without a summer bridge program. “This program gives students an early start at looking at their progression to the ninth grade and helps them build an understanding of the academic choices that exist beyond high school,” says Kenneth Parker, Director of Programs, Reach for College!

A small group of alumni were in the first pilot group, which involved team-building activities and three modules or courses: Achievement in High School, Basics of the Collegiate Experience, and Career Exploration. The curriculum, written by Higher Achievement and Reach for College! staff, was intended to be hands-on and interactive. Achievement in High School involved student-written and performed skits on peer pressure, a Q & A session with Higher Achievement alumni currently in high school, and goal-setting lessons. Some of the goals scholars articulated for their first year of high school included “I will be more open and social in high school by joining at least 2 clubs and making 3 new friends by November” and “to get the honor roll in all 4 quarters in my first year in high school.” Scholars spent much of the Basics of the Collegiate Experience course researching information about 4-year colleges and universities. They then designed their own colleges and acted as the Admissions Committee, reviewing mock applications and accepting, rejecting, or waitlisting those candidates. In Career Exploration, scholars learned career advice that they can both put into use immediately when applying for summer jobs, as well as things that they will use once out of college and in the career world. They learned about informational interviews, how to write a resume, and participated in mock interviews, where they were evaluated and given feedback about how to improve. In addition, scholars were able to participate in Career Shadow Days at the Department of Fine Arts at the George Washington University and at the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of State. The pilot program was enthusiastically reviewed by scholars and staff, in the words of Paris, “the most important thing I learned was asking for help and not to be afraid of asking questions. I will make the best of my time in high school by prioritizing.”Higher Achievement staff will follow through with program participants in their 9th grade year.

Princess: “I learned to be more social and not isolate myself but to also keep my options open and not limit myself. I was scared about meeting new people and making friends, but now I know to just be myself and I’ll find the right group.”

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