After getting to know some of these kids, I learned that they didn't really have an exit strategy for when they graduated. I wanted to do something to help change that.
Now in our community like many others, poverty and unemployment are high confounded with a growing drug problem. Many of our kids come from unstable or unsupportive homes and employment opportunities in our area are scarce. The "future" for many of these kids is next week or next month. Without a good start, many of these children may have long-term futures that are lacking in opportunity. A small percentage of our graduates go straight to a four year college and an even smaller number go to the local community college (20+ miles away). Getting to the community college several times a week is expensive because there is no public transportation and reliable cars need gas and insurance, so many don't finish a 2 year program. A larger number of graduates stay at home waiting for something to happen or fight over one of the few low paying jobs in this town of 1500 people.
After an almost sleepless weekend and several hours on my laptop, I came up with a borrowed idea for a College Application Party.
I discussed this the school counselors and they agreed to help me. We made posters, put the event on the announcements and recruited students in senior level classes. We planned the event on a teacher work day when the kids were out of school so we had several hours to work with them without taking away from class time.
I contacted a few of my friends from a few universities across the state and the local community college and they sent me some "swag" which consisted of a few t-tshirts, pencils, pennants, notebooks, etc. We made some goodie bags with pencils, bookmarks, flyers, and made a few door prize bundles with the loot. A local sandwich shop donated a tray of cookies, the grocery store donated balloons and the administration sprung for the pizza.
We had what we thought was a decent number turnout for the first time. We had 15 come on a school holiday (less than 100 in the class) and we lured them in with pizza and application waivers. There were 3 of us on hand to help where we could, provide support and encouragement and answer questions.
The kids seemed to have a good time, most stayed the whole three hours!
To follow up, we plan to promote College Application Week November 10-14. That week, students across North Carolina can submit free applications to dozens of participating colleges.
In the process of asking for donations, one college offered to come out at a later date to talk with students about the financial aid process. We plan to have a date for that in January or February when students can begin applying for money for college.
The whole event required little effort but hopefully will make an impact with students. Many parents and students expressed that would like to see this become an annual event.