One of our favorite times of year at SRA is early summer, when we get to call the high school juniors who have been selected into our newest class of SRA students. 10 years ago, I was selected into the SRA class of 2004. I was one of 10 students who received that lucky phone call. This past year, we were able to call 110 students. What an amazing accomplishment!
As an SRA student myself, I am forever indebted to the program that supported me through some of my most difficult times in my life. SRA provided a holistic approach to my challenges, really taking into consideration all the aspects of my life as a low income, first generation student. The most important puzzle piece in helping me get to and through college was the ability to access advice, support, and love from a person who truly cared about my well-being. Our advising program is an essential piece of our 90% college graduation rate. Advisors work hard to make sure students are connected and stay focused on their goals.
As a program, we face the difficulty of having to limit the number of students we choose every year. This past selection year, we received over 700 applications for our core program, and we were only able to choose 110 students. That is more than 600 students we had to turn away. We also know we have only scratched the surface in the Bay Area. There are still many high schools we have yet to touch, and we know they need our services. Every year, we expand our outreach, and every year, we receive more and more applicants. We knew we had to come up with a way to serve more students with the depth of knowledge we have acquired over the last 15 years.
As the person who answers the SRA voicemail messages each day, doing so was always hardest once our application deadline had passed. There are always messages over the summer months from family members who believe that their child or grandchild would benefit from our program, students who just started their senior year of high school and are looking for guidance, and from college students who are losing their way and asking for help. It was always so difficult to have to call these family members and students back, and to tell them that they had just missed our application deadline, or that they do not meet all of the requirements of our core program. Other than to refer them to school counselors or other programs, there was not much more we could offer.
As a first generation college student myself, I still remember how difficult it was to navigate the college application process, and how much I had to figure out on my own. Most of the students I went to high school with had parents who were navigating the process for them and supporting them financially while they were in school. I wish there had been a way for me to connect with other students like myself who were putting themselves through college and trying to figure it all out on their own. I wish I had known of the financial aid, work-study and scholarships that were likely available to me at the time. I wish I had been given access to a community like our Hub.
We have been exploring ways to share our knowledge with students outside of our program for a couple of years now. Although we realized we could not help every student financially, we also knew we had a depth of knowledge, gained over the 15 years of our program, that could be extremely beneficial to low-income students. We just needed to find a way to share it. Even two years ago, the technology was more costly to build and to manage, and we simply did not have the resources needed to make it happen. And then we went to a conference last year and realized that had changed.
We are proud of the SRA C2C Hub’s ability to help connect the dots between high school, college and career for students. The Hub provides meaningful and personalized interactions that are easily facilitated with technology. This allows us to scale our successful program and more importantly means there is truly no limit to how many students we can positively impact.
While many technologies in the college application space provide very valuable information, often times this is a one-way conversation. This leaves students on their own to decipher the often confusing information that makes up the college application process. We at SRA have cut through clutter of information found on the Internet and taken our years of experience helping students succeed to provide only the most quality resources and information to students. In the end this limits the common confusion students feel and leaves them more time to focus on the essential steps to get into and succeed in college.
Even more exciting, our College2Careers Hub goes a step beyond the some times typical one-way communication students receive. We offer students a valuable socio-emotional component of the support that SRA has proven to be most effective. We are thrilled to be able to build an online community that allows students to connect with each other and us on a more meaningful level. Within the first month I have been able to directly connect with students who needs us most on a daily basis. To have the opportunity to “be there” for students when they need it most actually makes me excited to open my inbox each morning! To be able to hop on a phone call, message online or hold a video chat with a student truly makes our program different. We at SRA know that real life connections and support are what makes a true difference.
Finally, our ability to support students through their full college journey and into their first job sets our comprehensive “one-stop-shop” apart. Students can turn to us during their college application journey, through college and into their first career. This privilege of supporting students through major transitions in their lives is something we take very seriously at Students Rising Above. We realize that we can be a part of life-changing opportunities that can positively impact a student’s life trajectory.
From all of us at SRA, thanks for reading! We could not be more excited for the launch of our SRA C2C Hub!
Lorna Contreras-Townsend, Jolee David, and Vanessa Barbic
Want to know more? Visit our website www.sracollege2careers.org
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