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A Culture of College and Support

Date Published: April 17, 2024

Author: Boston Collegiate

Boston Collegiate, a charter public school in Dorchester that serves students in grades 5-12, describes its mission as simple yet ambitious: to prepare every child for college. Jon Clark, Director of Alumni Programming and College Counselor, explains the school’s “culture of college” begins in the early grades with regular visits to college campuses and the integration of college into the middle school experience. Jon described assemblies with 5th and 6th grade students excitedly yelling “college!” in response to the question, “Where are you going?”

Boston Collegiate’s focus on rigorous academics and hands-on, personalized support for every student means that 100% of students graduate from high school with an acceptance to a four-year college program, and the school’s alumni persistence rates far exceed national averages. The three person college and career counseling team (College Counselor, Director of Alumni Programming, and Director of College Programming) guides students through every step of the college application process, prepares them for life beyond Boston Collegiate, and continues to support its alumni after graduation.

Students throw their grad caps in their air at graduation.

As students enter 11th grade, they continue their rigorous academic program, complete four or five college visits, and begin working closely with the college team to prepare for applications and to develop the soft skills that will support them in life after Boston Collegiate. During collegiate skills classes, students draft resumes and application materials and practice writing professional emails, making phone calls, and interviewing. Jon explains this preparation is invaluable for the two-week internship all juniors complete and leaves students feeling confident in themselves and their futures.

In 12th grade, students continue to attend collegiate skills classes and receive personalized one-on-one college counseling. The first time any child hits submit on an application, they are sitting with a member of the college team. Jon shared that he’s immensely proud of how his team supports each student from start to finish on their chosen journey. While every student applies to a four-year program, the team also adapts to support students who choose to pursue a career immediately after high school graduation. Jon explains receiving an acceptance is a powerful experience for every student regardless of their next step; the acceptance is tangible proof of students’ hard work throughout high school and their readiness for life after Boston Collegiate.

During the second half of 12th grade, the emphasis shifts toward preparation for college itself. Jon helps students anticipate what to expect on a college campus, particularly valuable for first-generation college-goers. Jon also guides students and families through the college commitment process, while communicating the ways in which Boston Collegiate will continue to support them beyond high school. Students graduate understanding that they have the support of a trusted adult dedicated to helping them navigate their college experience.

A teacher updates the board with students watching.

Jon explains that the vast majority of Boston Collegiate alumni continue to stay closely connected to the school. While the supports provided after graduation vary according to each students’ needs, Jon regularly visits college campuses and sits down with alumni to talk through their academic programs and career plans. Equally important, Jon checks in on students’ relationships with peers and their social emotional adjustment to college. Jon shared that this year’s visits have been phenomenal and he regularly receives positive feedback from students who appreciate the dedicated time to speak with an adult who truly knows them as an individual. Boston Collegiate also assists its alumni with critical financial needs through the Edward M. Kennedy Scholarship Fund, a fund they established to provide up to $1,000 per year to alumni to ensure their college experience is not impeded by financial need.

“I was born in the Dominican Republic, and I moved to the US when I was two years old. I attended Boston Collegiate from 5th grade until I graduated from high school. During my senior year, I applied to colleges and was accepted to Northeastern University, where I’m now in my second year. Boston Collegiate definitely prepared me academically, and the collegiate skills class guided us through the whole college process. I always knew that I could sit one-on-one with one of our college counselors for help or to have any questions answered. I really appreciated the support. The school cares about students even after they graduate. The Director of Alumni Programming, Mr. Clark, visits Boston Collegiate alumni at Northeastern yearly and also came to campus to help me have questions answered at the financial aid office. I don’t hesitate to reach out to teachers and staff if I ever need anything. I have a good relationship with my teachers and talk to someone at the school monthly.” -Jose Fernandez

The close connection to alumni is invaluable to Boston Collegiate graduates and gives the college and career counseling team access to real-time feedback. This information allows the team to constantly iterate on the high school curriculum in response to the ever-evolving needs of graduates. Looking forward, Jon seeks to sustain the team’s nimbleness and growth mindset, increase opportunities for greater connection and mentorship, and continue to support every student on their individual journey.