Students Help Their Peers Pursue the College Dream
"Without CYC, I probably wouldn't have ever been able to visit a college campus," admits Dater High School senior, Dennisha Bouldin.
But Dennisha has not only visited several campuses, she's helping her peers have the same opportunity as part of a new Cincinnati Youth Collaborative program for high school seniors called the Scholarship Scouts.
Having the opportunity to visit college campuses is one of the challenges facing first generation college students. Other major challenges include deciphering the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and meeting application deadlines. Identifying challenges, opportunities, and resources was part of an orientation held last December for 24 high school seniors selected to be CYC's Scholarship Scouts.
"Actually listening to the students is the first step in advising them," shares James R. Cullen, CYC Director of College Access programs. "That and the positive peer mentoring of the Scholarship Scouts program combines everything that we've learned in 15 years of college access and mentoring."
"Another example of the enormous potential of this initiative is the opportunity for collaboration," Cullen further offers. "We had Janet Winter, UC's Student Financial Aid Program Manager, here to train the Scouts on the FAFSA; Keianna Matthews, Xavier University Admissions Counselor, to train them in Admissions; and Beth Collins, College Scholarship Program Administrator for the Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation, to explain the scholarship application process."
Working closely with the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative's Talent Search (TS) Team, Scholarship Scouts will support outreach efforts to seniors at participating high schools. These efforts will consist of creating "positive peer-pressure" through one-on-one and cohort systems within each school's senior class to ensure that FAFSA and scholarship and admission applications are submitted in an accurate and timely manner.
The overall goals of this initiative are to:
- Increase the number and percent of seniors at participating schools that complete the FAFSA
- Increase the number and percent of seniors at participating schools that complete the Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation application
- Increase the post-secondary education entry rate of seniors at participating schools
The Scholarship Scouts program is being implemented at Dater, Hughes Center, Shroder, Robert A. Taft Information Technology, Withrow International, Withrow University, Western Hills Design Technology and Western Hills University High Schools.
"The Cincinnati Youth Collaborative is an integral part of the college access program at Dater High School," observes Dater counselor, Carl Grueninger. "Over the past few years the CYC Cincinnati Opportunity and College Help (C.O.A.C.H.) program and now the Scouts program have collaborated with Dater's counselors to enhance college awareness in our school. The CYC has provided programs where high school peers and undergraduate college students have worked with Dater's counselors in guiding students in the process of completing college applications, scholarships, and financial aid forms."
The Scouts program is unique for each high school. At Hughes Center, for example, Scholarship Scouts are armed with paper copies of the Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation application and maintain a tracking checklist of their fellow seniors who have completed the application process.
At the Western Hills Campus, Scouts steer peers towards existing college readiness programs for assistance with admissions and financial aid.
CYC was one of six Ohio College Access Network member organizations to be awarded a Best Practices grant. The CYC program replicates the Scholarship Scouts program operated by the Scholarship Central Access Program at the Muskingum County Community Foundation.
"Through federal GEARUP funding, the Ohio College Access Network in conjunction with the Ohio Board of Regents, has identified a series of college access best practices and offered implementation grants to college access programs around the state," said Mayme Patthoff, Associate Director of the Ohio College Access Network. "We are excited that the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative is implementing the Scholarship Scouts best practices, a program that uses peer mentors in high school to encourage classmates to pursue education beyond high school."
Shroder High School senior, Obediah Cheatham further illustrates the value of initiatives like Scholarship Scouts, stating, "I am an active participant of the Scholarship Scouts program through the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. I have really enjoyed working with the senior class at Shroder as I plan for my own future. I will attend Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the fall of 2006. While at Butler University, I plan to pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology or political science and play football. My ultimate goal is to obtain a law degree."
As for Dennisha, she discovered Kentucky State a few years ago on a college visit with CYC's Talent Search. She will attend Kentucky State University in the fall and major in education. While in college, she would like to join a sorority and be involved in cheerleading.