As we continue in our series of success stories, we hope you view these articles as opportunities to gain awareness of what your peers are doing in the community, identify ways to partner or cross-collaborate, and simply be inspired.
This month’s featured project is Creative Education Partners (CEP). Dan Clement, chair of CEP’s advisory board, tells the story:
Montebello Unified School District is one of many districts in LA County in need of critical support. Statewide in California, there are more than 1,000 students for each college counselor in the public school system. In many high schools, there are few if any special programs to assist students with preparing college applications. In the Montebello district, 80% of students live at or below the poverty line, and the vast majority of families have little or no experience with college attendance. In 2008, I connected with CEP’s founder and project leader Todd Clark to co-launch College Bound Today, a program that helps students and families in the Montebello district navigate the college application process. College Bound Today seeks to build on Montebello’s already impressive attendance and graduation rates, and focuses upon possibilities beyond receiving a high school diploma. Building students’ and parents’ awareness, knowledge, and understanding of the application process, College Bound Today works to increase the number of students who apply to, are accepted by, and attend 4-year colleges.
College Bound Today works in partnership with and supplements the schools’ current counseling resources. Under the supervision of each school’s college counselor, teams of volunteer mentors help prepare students for admission to four-year colleges beginning in their 10th grade year. Meeting together on the school campus once a month during the school year, mentors support students in a variety of ways: helping them select courses that will satisfy requirements and impress 4-year colleges; accompanying students on cultural field trips; and encouraging the students to prepare for and take the PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT tests. (CBT provides all students with a free 30-hour SAT prep course during their junior year.) In the students’ senior year, mentors provide critical support during the decision making and application process. They accompany students on visits to colleges and universities in the area, help them understand the financial aid application process, and guide the students in developing competitive college applications and essays.
Since inception, College Bound Today has seen tremendous results. In February 2009, 74 tenth grade students at Schurr High School enrolled as the first students in the College Bound Today program. This past June, 61 students in this “pilot group” completed the five-semester program. They all graduated from high school, and 60 of them went on to college: 40% to one of the University of California campuses, 30% to one of the California State University campuses, 20% to community colleges, and 9% to private universities, including Harvard, Stanford and Mount St. Mary’s College.
Additionally, College Bound Today has successfully begun to expand its program. In 2010, they grew their program to include Bell Gardens High School, this coming year they will expand to Montebello High School, and in 2013 they will bring the program to the recently opened Applied Technology Center (a high school that focuses on work-based learning and career exploration in accordance with the “Linked Learning” educational strategy). These expansion efforts have allowed College Bound Today to dramatically grow the number of students they are serving. Currently working with 220 students, 150 new students will be added in the coming year.
College Bound Today continues to strive for excellence on behalf of students’ futures, search for superb mentors, and work towards continued sustainability and expansion of the program.