In its years of work in the Central community, Promise recognizes that the process of choosing a high school starts in middle school. Unfortunately, many of Promise’s families report that students currently transitioning from middle to high school have access to few resources to motivate them around personal interests and high school choice. To help students better understand their options for high school and recognize what makes a good fit, Promise is working with College Now Greater Cleveland to install a full-time high school transition advisor in Central middle schools.
Funded with generous support from the Reuter Foundation, Promise and College Now welcomed RaShawn Carter to the team in September. His work is modeled on College Now’s district-wide framework of placing college transition counselors in all Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) high schools.
The goal of the program is to work with middle school students and families to understand key milestones of high school, college and career readiness while ensuring that youth are informed and prepared to enroll at a high school aligned with their interests.
As a district focused on school choice, CMSD has created a variety of high school models so students can find the ones that will help them reach their goals. Students can attend any high school they wish if space is available and, in a few cases, they meet admissions requirements.
Since October, Carter has worked with more than 50 students in seventh and eighth grades at three Central schools: George Washington Carver, Alfred A. Benesch and Marion Sterling. He focuses on building relationships, assessing each child’s interests and supporting the Tru2U mentoring program.
Earlier this fall, Carter administered Naviance career exploration assessments for the students to better gauge their strengths and talents. In the Central neighborhood, the top three strengths were most prevalent:
• Competing – Students enjoy measuring their performance against that of others and have a great desire to win
• Confidence – Students believe in themselves and their ability to be successful in their endeavors
• Future thinking – Students tend to think about what’s possible beyond the present time, even beyond their lifetime
“It has been inspiring to watch other classes look up to the older students and genuinely want to engage in their activities,” Carter said. “I have noticed students take initiative and engage in learning about their future.”
Carter said he will use the strength and personality information to help customize his one-on-one work to help students find appropriate college and career pathways. Before college and career, however, Carter is making sure that high school graduation is a reality for all of Central’s students.
In December, Carter coordinated a student panel discussion: “High School: What I Wish I Knew,” where seventh and eighth-graders could hear from current Central high schoolers about their experiences.
“With numerous tools and programs geared toward easing the transition process, it has become imperative for students and their families to get additional help just to navigate what is available,” Carter said. “Each day holds an opportunity to increase their awareness of school choice, as well as their social and emotional intelligence.”
Carter said he’s been grateful that teachers in the schools have been receptive and inclusive of the additional support. At Carver, Carter is partnered with two middle school “model teachers,” who are highly engaged with students, family and staff. These teachers have supported Carter significantly in his relationship-building with students, as well as how to think creatively about use of time, space and school curriculum.
Carter’s position has been funded for two years, so that he is able to work with this year’s seventh graders throughout their eighth grade year and help with their transition to ninth grade.
“With enthusiasm from the students and a strong supporting cast, I’m looking forward to continuing this work,” Carter said.