RISE Summer Academies Give Students a Head Start as They Prepare for Senior Year

Data Tools and PracticesPostsecondary ReadinessRISE by 5 Strategies

And that’s a wrap! The summer of 2023 was a busy one; from the end of June to the third week in August, all nine RISE core network schools held summer academy programs to support rising seniors who plan to attend a four-year college. As a network, we supported 524 rising seniors!

We know students who are 4-year college-bound must complete multiple milestones even before filling out a college application, including writing a college essay, requesting letters of recommendation, and creating a Common Application account. The RISE Network’s summer academy strategy gives incoming seniors the opportunity to get a head start in completing these milestones before the start of their senior year.

The academies ran from June through August, with each school hosting one to two week programs focused on students and staff connecting and reviewing the tasks needed to complete a strong application portfolio. Although the programs were similar in terms of timing, goal-setting, and milestone completion, many of our schools used the opportunity to create innovative activities to engage their students. 

Brien McMahon High School welcomed speakers from Indeed and LinkedIn, focusing on resumes and creating a professional online presence. Manchester High School took their incoming seniors on a field trip to the UConn Storrs campus to learn more about college and campus life. Hartford Public High School and Naugatuck High School both offered hybrid models to their seniors to engage them virtually alongside their in-person peers. 

“While navigating the hybrid model took some getting used to, I am thrilled that students with transportation conflicts were able to access this helpful program,” said Carolyne Dymond, English teacher and summer academy coordinator at Naugatuck. “Students no longer need to concern themselves with the logistics of the program and can benefit from the conferencing, seminars, and instruction.”

Given our focus on continuous improvement, and to reflect learnings from past summer academies, RISE designed an updated program outline for schools to implement within their own contexts, including: 

  • Holding a minimum 20-hour program and recruiting at least 20% of incoming seniors to attend, in order to maximize impact 
  • Maintaining a student-to-coach ratio of 1:15 to allow for personalized support
  • Challenging students to complete at least five significant milestones 
  • Coaching educators on tracking milestone completion in the RISE Data Hub
  • Setting a December application goal and a February FAFSA goal for the summer academy student cohort

To ensure success and student voice, an exit survey was given to each senior who attended a summer academy. 76 percent of students who took the survey completed a minimum of four milestones during their program. Creating a FSA ID was the top milestone completed by students and creating a college list on Naviance was a close second. 

As we begin the 2023-24 school year, our teams will continue to use the RISE Data Hub to track milestone completion for their summer academy students, keeping in mind the goals they set for this cohort. Summer academies may be over, but this is just the beginning for our seniors and helping them to reach their goals!