The RISE Network works to ensure that all students graduate with meaningful and personalized postsecondary plans, collaborating with high schools to implement targeted transition supports. RISE’s summer college and career readiness academies support students as they begin their senior year of high school and prepare for the transition to college, career, and beyond.
Through these programs, counselors provide students with one-on-one support with milestones such as completing their Common App, requesting letters of recommendation, auditing their personal essays, reviewing financial aid options, and covering important dates and deadlines so that students have a head start on the postsecondary planning process.
In 2022, Middletown High School was one of nine RISE Network schools that hosted their own versions of this program, which have evolved over the years. Attendance has grown steadily and has shifted to focus on first-generation students who may need more differentiated support. This year, RISE coached educators around more focused strategies, including setting an enrollment goal of 20% of each senior class, and ensuring that at least five specific postsecondary planning milestones have been achieved by each student upon completion of the program.
Bobbi-Jo Wathen, College and Career Counselor at Middletown High School, took RISE’s advice to heart when designing their 2022 Summer Bootcamp. Instead of just five milestones, she challenged her counselors and students to work together to achieve eight. She also employed four English teachers to help students workshop their essays and added mini-sessions focusing on specific aspects of the Common App.
In describing her Summer Bootcamp experience, Hannah, an incoming Middletown High School senior, said, “The thing I was the happiest we did was going through all the Common App questions. At first it was overwhelming and then they slowed it down and then I saw that it was not too hard, just a lot of information.” Hannah hopes to study Immunology after she graduates, and has selected UNC-Chapel Hill, UVA, and Michigan State as her top choice schools.
Nick, a fellow senior, is still narrowing down his list of colleges from the eight he is considering, but he knows he wants to stay in New England and play soccer. Nick said that his Middletown Summer Bootcamp counselors helped him greatly. “They gave me advice on what to do, and also how to do it,” he said. “They walked us through the steps and made sure we knew they were there to help us.”
When asked what his advice for other incoming seniors would be, Nick said, “Your priority should be dialing down your college list, really thinking about where you apply, because fit is so important. Use your counselors – they will help you.”
Hannah had similar advice; “Take the program! Even if you think you know all the pieces, there is something to learn and it’s so nice to have someone help you through it. The program takes you through all the steps and there are counselors and teachers to help you through it all.”
RISE Postsecondary Success Coach Abby Marcantonio, who worked with Ms. Wathen to develop Middletown’s program, said that “programming has become more intentional to address the completion of milestones so that students can feel more relaxed as they start their senior year. RISE has seen this as a really promising strategy leading to improved outcomes for postsecondary success.”
“This year was the best one we’ve had,” Ms. Wathen said of Middletown’s Summer Bootcamp. “Having partners in the Network to bounce ideas off of and coaching from RISE changes my practice. I couldn’t have made the program as comprehensive as it was without the support from the RISE Network.”