In alignment with the district’s objective towards increasing the graduation, retention, and college entrance requirement completion rate of the African American student population within the Riverside Unified School District and Riverside Poly High School, the Heritage Program was developed at the district level and is implemented at each site. Students and parents within this program are provided additional support by a site mentor and a school counselor in order to complete the required courses needed to enroll in a four year California university known as the A-G Courses. At Riverside Poly High School, the support is provided by a school counselor and a site mentor. In 2013-2014, only 20% of African American students were meeting the requirements for entrance into a four year California university/college. After implementing Heritage during the 2014-2015 school year, that percentage grew to 48%, which is double the previous year. However, since the data shows that still less than 50% of African American students are completing the courses needed for entrance into a California university, it was decided as a team that Heritage would be our “closing the gap” focus group. Additionally, Heritage is currently serving tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students. Since it was not currently servicing ninth grade, the Poly counseling team decided it was crucial to start students early and provide proactive intervention for meeting graduation and college requirements. Counselors did not want to wait to intervene until after freshmen year. By intervening with them at the beginning of their high school career, we can focus on being proactive and not reactive; thus, our closing the gap group focused on freshmen African American males and females.
There were a total of 60 African American students in ninth grade during the 2015-2016 school year. All students were invited to participate in small group academic counseling. Unfortunately, only twenty six students returned the small group counseling participation consent form, even after numerous attempts and conferences with parents. Counseling services are often frowned upon within minority groups, and therefore, since it was the first year offered, participation was low. However results were high with the students who participated. Of the twenty six students, 21 (80.7%) were on track and meeting the college requirements (passing all classes with a “C” or better) after the completion of group. The remaining five students attended summer school to make up any “D” or “F” courses, and out of those five, three successfully completed their summer school courses. This means that at the end of their freshmen year, 24 or 92.3% of ninth grade African American students were on track to meet the requirements/courses needed for entrance unto a university as a result of academic group counseling. Since 92.3% of students were successful after completing group, a small group for Heritage ninth graders will be offered again next school year.
African American students who meet the college entrance requirements are able to graduate under the Heritage Program Designation and receive a unique cultural sash to wear at their graduation. Furthermore, we have discussed as a team and with the Heritage Coordinator our efforts at Poly and we have suggested to the district that more information on academic group counseling should be shared. As a result, a Heritage Freshmen Night will be implemented next school year (2016-2017). Counselors will be sharing results of the Group at Poly and inviting parents and students to participate in these services.