Through our Graduate Support Program, Esperanza makes a twelve year commitment to students, educating them in grades five through eight and supporting them through high school and college. Our graduate support program starts working with girls early in their Esperanza career, and creates a college-bound culture that permeates throughout all aspects.
The graduate support team works with sixth and seventh graders to start thinking about high school and what kind of school they would like to attend; the team helps students make the connection between their effort in school now, and how that will impact them as they start to apply to competitive high schools. In eighth grade, the staff works with students to determine which high school would be the best fit, a school that will both nurture them and challenge them to reach their full potential, and guides students and their families through the application and admissions process. The staff works with students on test preparation, interview skills, and essay writing. Programming for current students is built into our extended school day. Students meet weekly with the graduate support team to do research projects on various high schools and colleges, practice for entrance exams such as the SSAT, practice mock admissions interviews, and work on high school applications. They also discuss the academic, social, and emotional challenges and opportunities that they will face in high school. The graduate support team arranges for Esperanza alumnae to visit and speak with students to share their first-hand knowledge and experience about transitioning from Esperanza into high school and college.
Once students are in high school, we monitor academic performance, help arrange necessary tutoring or counseling, and arrange social and community service events to keep the alumnae connected to each other and to Esperanza. Care packages are sent to students at boarding schools, and the graduate support director visits each high school campus at least once per semester. Graduate support staff also work with 11th and 12th graders and their families to navigate the college application process. We organize college tours, SAT prep classes, financial aid workshops, and help students identify and apply for scholarships. Once students are admitted, we work with them assess their options and choose the best fit college or university based on their academic and career goals and financial situation. We keep in close contact with our college-aged alumnae in many of the same ways we connect with our high school-aged alumnae: visits to campus, care packages, advising and mentoring, social and community service events. Delivery of programming for our high school and college-aged alumnae varies and is largely dependent on the needs of each individual student. The graduate support team organizes a number of events throughout the year including college and career fairs, college visits, and college application and financial aid seminars. Outside of these group activities, most programming is one on one and includes tutoring, essay and application assistance and review, and phone calls or visits to campus to check in. Some graduates come back to Esperanza a couple times per week for support, and some (especially those who attend college or boarding schools far from Lawrence) rely mostly on phone calls and emails to communicate and receive support.
Research has shown that first generation college students, which includes the vast majority of our young women, face significant challenges not only getting into college, but getting through and graduating. According to the Pell Institute, only 11% of first generation college students from low-income backgrounds earn their college degrees within six years of matriculating. The support that our Graduate Support Program provides is academic, emotional, and social in scope. These wraparound services ensure that students feel supported and know that they have somewhere to turn when they face challenges or obstacles with which their family might not be able to assist. Graduate support is a tenet of the NativityMiguel education model, upon which Esperanza was founded. As such, we are in a position to be a thought leader in this field, and are committed to implementing and sharing best practices. Ben Lynch, the program director, is a leader on the National Graduate Support Council, through the NativityMiguel Coalition, and he has presented on the topic of graduate support at conferences across the country. We work closely with other schools nationwide who provide graduate support services to exchange ideas, successes, and challenges.
"The Graduate Support program pushed me to do well in high school. During the past four years they have kept in contact with us to make sure our grades are not slipping and that we're doing ok in high school in general, not just academically. Every Thursday we come back from three to five pm for study hall, where we get help on our studies if we need it. The program has been a big help in my college search also and I have now applied and been accepted to six colleges."
—Esperanza Alumna Ashley, EA ‘09
Rogers Family Foundation