Life After Graduation: How the College Connections Program Prepares Students for their Futures
From working with mentors on essays and college applications to establishing a professional network of contacts, The Fresh Air Fund’s College Connections Program (CCP) prepares high school students for life after graduation. CCP is a year-round leadership program which provides students with the resources and support they need to apply to and graduate from college or other postsecondary paths. Students develop skills in various topics, such as study habits, self-advocacy, public speaking and time management.
Bentley Gordon, the College Connections Program Manager, says, “It’s programs like this that prepare students for the college lifestyle. It shows that even though they’re going off to college, they’re not on this journey alone. Not only do they have us, but they have their parents as well, learning right along with them.”
Working with Mentors
The mentoring sessions this fall included workshops that focused on each grade’s specific needs. High school seniors have worked on writing their personal statements, applying for financial aid and sending out college applications. Juniors were tasked with designing their dream college on a fixed budget. Sophomores discussed tips and tricks for navigating social media, both on a personal and professional level.
“I have learned a lot about networking,” says high school senior Aderinsola. “My mentor encouraged me to create a LinkedIn profile, and I’ve been networking so much. I started off with zero connections, and now I have over 100! It’s been very useful.”
Learning New Skills
Every student has a unique takeaway from their experience with CCP. Some have shared that because of the support from their mentors, they feel more prepared to both apply to and attend college. Others feel that they have learned how to manage their time more effectively and stay on top of their deadlines.
High school senior Richard says, “Because of this program, I’ve been able to improve my ability to multitask and figure out what I need to do to meet deadlines. I also learned how to create elevator pitches and a resume.”
Students aren’t the only ones impacted by CCP, even the mentors have acquired new skills. Russia Boles, a mentor and Senior Account Executive at Small Girls PR, is a Fresh Air alum and participated in CCP when she was in high school. She returned as a mentor years later and has loved giving back. Her experience as a mentor has been just as much of a learning opportunity for her as it has been for students.
“I’ve definitely learned more about advocating for yourself. A lot of students talk about how their grades aren’t online or that they aren’t accurate. I always tell them to go to their teachers, talk to them and don’t be afraid to ask for extra credit. Teaching them this has allowed me to start advocating for myself at work if I feel like my bandwidth is too much.”
Establishing Lifelong Connections
Above all, one of the most important aspects of the College Connections Program for students is found right in the name: the connections.
“My favorite part about this program is my individual group,” says high school senior Ralph. “The group that you start with in the beginning, you’re going to stay with for the rest of the program. I really like that part because you get to form strong bonds with the other students in the group.”
Many students grew up going to camp with each other, and CCP provides an opportunity for them to maintain those relationships throughout the school year. Aderinsola has loved the friendships both camp and CCP have fostered.
Despite being from different parts of the city, students have managed to form unbreakable bonds with one another. High school senior Jadyn shares, “The best part is just meeting with my peers. We are all from different schools and different boroughs, so it’s fun learning about everyone’s days and what college we want to go to.”
The rapport built between students and their mentors will also last a lifetime. “I think the best part of CCP is knowing that you have your mentors for life,” Russia shares. “They will continue with you into college if you stay connected with them. It’s great to know you have a support system.”
To learn more about the College Connections Program, click here.