In the face of COVID-19 school closures, RISE counselors worked together to expand summer melt texting campaigns to serve over 1,700 seniors across seven RISE high schools. This support feels more important than ever before, as recent graduates make postsecondary decisions amidst great uncertainty. Research suggests college matriculation rates could drop due to remote learning at colleges. Additionally, more students may see public or community college as a cost-effective alternative and may change their original plans to attend a private or four-year institution. Lauren Powers, College & Career Coordinator at Maloney, said the last three months of the school year required an all-hands-on-deck approach.
Everybody jumped in to lend a hand,” Ms. Powers said. “Especially for the seniors, we all had to play a role in getting them to where they needed to be.”
Ms. Powers said Meriden Public Schools began their summer melt texting campaign prior to graduation, using the texting platform SignalVine. RISE Network schools are using SignalVine to send customized text messages to recent graduates. These messages are tailored for students who plan to enroll in college, enlist in the military, or join the workforce; the messages provide reminders about deadlines, next steps, and key decisions. Students can respond to messages, ask questions and even schedule a virtual meeting. Due to COVID-19, many enrollment deadlines have changed, making these text message reminders and conversations crucial for seniors hoping to enroll in the fall. Ms. Powers said at Maloney 221 out of the 280 seniors signed up for the summer melt texting campaign and the conversations have been informative for seniors.
“Sometimes students are changing their minds on what they want to do, so we’re talking about what it is they’d like to study, if they’d like to switch the community colleges they want to go to, learn about four-year colleges, sign up for orientation, and we’ve got a lot of questions about sending out final transcripts,” Ms. Powers said.
At Middletown High School, Coordinator of Guidance Ralph D’Amato said the summer melt texting campaign has enabled the Middletown Counseling Department to support recent graduates in new ways.
“We’re getting a lot more questions like, ‘I deposited at a particular college, but I just want to make sure my scholarship money gets there,’ ” Mr. D’Amato said. “That’s critical and we’re happy to help with that.”
From the onset of distance instruction, Middletown High School kept seniors engaged by focusing on strong social-emotional connections through check-ins with students . With many senior year events either cancelled or markedly different, Mr. D’Amato said keeping seniors’ morale high was also crucial. He said they held a fundraiser to raise money for Class of 2020 swag bags to celebrate senior signing day.
Meriden Public Schools also experimented with new ways to keep seniors engaged. Ms. Powers said she collaborated with Platt High School College and Career Coordinator Abby Marcantonio to use senior checklists for two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and apprenticeships and trades. The checklists feature reminders on FAFSA completion, paying college deposits, setting up college email accounts, and more. She also stressed the importance of being flexible in scheduling meetings with seniors, as many seniors chose to work during the day to save money for college, and focus on school in the evening.
“We would meet with students at 7 o’clock at night,” Ms. Powers said. “It was whatever worked best for them. We wanted to be there for the students.”
RISE counselors leading summer melt texting campaigns across the network are meeting over the summer to share strategies and learnings, and we are excited to continue to spotlight and learn from this important effort!