The Counselors meet at the start of the year to determine what groups to run during the school year. The administration had already identified that the population of students not graduating in four years needed to be addressed. With that, one of the counselors facilitated a group for “Off-Track Students” to address that need. This group would provide students with alternative methods for graduating and assist with planning how to achieve the goal of graduating as soon as possible. Another counselor identified the growing population of students who are new to the country and thus, new to the American high school setting. After meeting with the ESOL teacher, this counselor formed a “Diversity” group. Students in the “Diversity” group would be given the tools needed to successfully navigate high school. The final group idea came as a result of conversation with a student who will be the first to attend college in his family. The counselors agreed that an often overlooked population of students, first-generation college students. The “First-Generation” group would be the focus of our RAMP small group.
Research shows that first-generation college students are more likely to fail out of college because they lack the understanding of university culture and expectations. To determine which student would fit the group, the Counselors decided this subgroup should be addressed. Counselors were asked to poll their seniors to determine if they are first-generation. A total of 13 students were identified and were invited to join the group, and 9 students actually participated. Of the 13 invited, 4 did not respond to the invitation because they did not have parent permission or decided not to participate. The purpose of this group was to give students greater insight into college culture, expectations, vocabulary, financial aid information, scholarship information, and how to navigate their way through the application process and first year at college.
We began by administering a pretest to determine their current knowledge. The curriculum for the small group was created by our senior counselor, Valerie Bullock and was tailored to the needs of the students based on the results from the assessment. The lessons included graduation status checks, senior year planning and college application timelines, essay writing, financial aid advice, scholarship search, SAT/ACT tips, and how to advocate on the college campus. Our goal was for 50% of our first-generation small group students to be enrolled in and attending college by fall 2016. We also wanted to assess perception of what first-generation students felt that they needed to be successful. The Counselors and counselor-intern meet weekly with the 8 students and presented lessons and activities. These students were also invited to attend a campus visit to Georgia State University.
The results report showed that of the 9 students who initially began the group, 8 completed the group with 1 student who decided to drop out due to an academic conflict. Of the remaining eight students, 4 students applied and were accepted into a 4-year university, 2 students applied and were accepted into a Technical College, 1 student applied and was accepted into an art program, and 1 student opted not to apply for any college at this time. Our initial goal was for 50% of students from this group to enroll in or attend college in the fall of 2016, and we exceeded that goal by 90%. Although we exceeded our goal and feel that the small group was a success, we want to increase the number of students who participate in the group in the fall. As a result, we want to incorporate more incentives for participation. We plan to reach out to our stakeholders for support with this endeavor. A suggestion by one of the counselors is to run this same group with 11th grade students. Another suggestion by one of our counselors is to start the group earlier in the academic year for 12th grade students. We plan to incorporate these changes into our group for this school year.
With each group offered, overwhelmingly the counselors found an extreme sense of gratitude from students to be a common theme. It brought to the attention of the department, the importance of reaching out to various sub-groups of the school as they can sometimes become lost in the shuffle. As the department seeks to continuously provide support to students who are often neglected, we believe we will make a greater impression on the school body as a whole.