Monday, September 12, 2011

College Bound Program

Mission Statement
The College Office of the Renaissance Charter School, in keeping with the mission of our school, is dedicated to developing leaders with an abiding respect for peace, human rights, the environment, and sustainable development. We strive to foster educated, responsible, and humanistic young leaders who have a thorough understanding of New York City’s unique heritage and who will spark a "renaissance" in our city. We seek to prepare students to become independent learners with unconditional regard for others and themselves, able to achieve academic success and acquire the skills they need to participate productively as global citizens.

Program Description

The College Bound Program includes in-class instruction for students in the 9th through 12th grades, individual counseling, and parent information sessions and workshops. The College Bound Team is composed of the following staff members: college advisor, senior seminar/literacy skills teacher, community involvement/internships coordinator, and high school registrar. The program is under the direction of Stacey Gauthier, TRCS Co-Principal. The Team collaborates with faculty and staff to build a curriculum and provide enrichment opportunities for the academic and social growth of our students. Additionally, the College Bound staff work closely with the Instructional Support Team to provide services to students with special needs.

9th Grade

Beginning in the ninth grade, students learn about post-secondary options, such as colleges and trade schools, during college bound classes and through school-wide events. They create academic and career portfolios that they continue to build upon and revise throughout their four years in high school. Students evaluate their plans at the end of every academic cycle, checking their progress towards graduation. Curriculum scaffolding allows the college bound staff to guide students as they explore their values, social and academic interests, career options and choices of institutions of higher learning. Each year, students are encouraged to attend college open houses and informational sessions. When finances allow, we take students on college visits outside of New York City.

Freshmen work with Program staff to become acquainted with the requirements of high school and work toward acquiring time-management, study, and test-taking skills. They begin preparation for the PSAT, SAT/ACT and other tests required by colleges. Students become familiar with test formats, engage in writing and vocabulary building activities, and take practice tests. They are encouraged to take the SAT Subject Tests the year they complete the subject. Ninth graders begin examining their values and priorities, based on their individual goals.

10th Grade
Sophomores continue their values exploration and deeply explore the careers they have identified. All sophomores take the PSAT. The test results allow high school staff to address the needs of individual students and of the class as a whole. Students begin to research majors that correspond with their career interests and the colleges or trade schools that offer them. They also begin to research scholarships for which they might be eligible.

11th Grade
Juniors thoroughly research colleges that they identified the previous year and look for additional schools that meet their needs. They are required to prepare extensive profiles that detail the entrance requirements, academic and sport programs, and student life for each college. Students also continue preparing for the PSAT and the SAT, which they all take in the spring of junior year.

In keeping with our school’s mission to develop leaders, the junior class is charged with the responsibility of organizing a “Social Justice Day” under the guidance of the College Advisor, an event attended by the entire high school student body. Juniors research, prepare, and facilitate workshops on issues such as sexism, racism, and classism. In addition to the workshops, eleventh graders plan the schedule and assign students in other grades to workshops based on an interest questionnaire juniors design, distribute, and analyze. TRCS students often cite their involvement in Social Justice Day as one of the highlights of their high school experience. The junior class also organizes a Career Day for all high school students, under the supervision of the College Advisor. Juniors invite speakers from professions in which they are interested, recruiting from staff and parent networks as well as professional associations.

12th Grade
Seniors complete their college, scholarship, and financial aid applications. They finalize their portfolios and use them to prepare applications and present themselves during interviews. In addition to discussing the mechanics of applications, college bound classes address the stresses of transitioning to college and the challenges of freshmen year. The topics range from choosing a roommate to creating a successful study environment in a dorm or at home. Moreover, students work on their writing, research and critical reading skills. They are required to submit a research paper that meets college-level standards. Once all colleges have responded, seniors meet with members of the College Bound team to discuss their options, which include financial considerations.

A major component of the College Bound Program is parent outreach and involvement. Many of our students are the first in their families to attend college; many parents do not speak English. We have been very successful in engaging parents in discussions and workshops about the college bound process and the responsibilities of all stakeholders (parents, students, and teachers). We encourage parents to meet with teachers to discuss academic and social expectations and to make sure that students are on track for graduation and college. Parent volunteers enhance the program by acting as chaperons on trips and by speaking during career day. A parent who is a financial aid officer at a local college does a financial aid workshop and offers individual counseling for seniors and their parents.

We serve our students by availing ourselves of the resources offered by organizations such as New Visions and the College Access Consortium of New York (CACNY). Moreover, we have built solid relationships with programs and institutions which offer academic, volunteer and internship opportunities to our students beginning in the ninth grade. Our students have participated in programs at the American Museum of Natural History, Global Kids/Council on Foreign Relations, The New York Historical Society, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Weill-Cornell Youth Scholars, the Reading Excellence and Discovery Foundation (READ), Noguchi Museum, Make the Road New York, to name a few.

College Now
TRCS students take college-level courses through the CUNY College Now programs at Queens, Hunter, Baruch and other senior colleges, as well as community colleges such as La Guardia and Queensborough. The relationship with Queens College was extended to our middle school through a partnership with the college’s Gear Up Program. Our goal is not only to have our students enroll in college; it is also to support them once they are accepted. We maintain contact with our alumni. Staff provide academic and social support to our graduates. If an alumnus has difficulty with math, she will seek out one of our math teachers. If she requires assistance in formulating the thesis for a paper, she contacts one of our humanities teachers. Alumni regularly speak to our current students about college life and about the steps they must take to ensure academic success.

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