With help from their Post-Secondary Team, all 9th, 10th and 11th-graders from Bronzeville Scholastic Academy were recently given a preview of college life.
Late last month, these 350 students boarded busses for a day-long college tour that included nine schools ranging in size, location and admissions criteria.
"One of the goals of our Post-Secondary Team is to increase our college going culture," said Bronzeville principal Leeandra Khan. "We spend a lot of time with juniors and seniors, but need to get the underclassmen involved in the college conversation earlier."
Loaded down with faculty, staff and underclassmen, the busses left from Bronzeville as early as 7 a.m... and took paths synonymous with students' college access levels. Some visited two-year institutions such as Kennedy-King College, while others toured local schools like Chicago State and Robert Morris universities. Students interested in a small school feel had the chance to explore Concordia, Illinois Wesleyan, Monmouth and Wheaton College, while those interested in larger campuses enjoyed trips to Loyola University and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
"My experience was very marvelous and essential to my development as a college student," said Sherena, a Bronzeville junior who visited Illinois Wesleyan University. It was very helpful in finding out general information for college admissions and good advice when applying for college."
Jah'Mari Sims, also a junior, had a similar experience at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
"This day opened up so many eyes and answered so many questions about the overall basis of college," he said. "It was a step in the right direction for Bronzeville because we were able to step out of our comfort zone and show how mature we can be outside of school."
While on the bus, all students were given profiles of the schools they were to visit, as well as a checklist for choosing the right college. They had the opportunity to tour the campus, meet current students, sit in on lectures and have lunch, all before returning to Bronzeville that evening.
"Students returned happy, grateful and ready for the fourth-quarter push," said Principal Khan. "I give them regular pep talks on how the work they do now will pay off in college admissions and scholarship offers, but going on the college tour helped directly connect them with the concept of higher education, which was powerful."
Over the past 5 years, Bronzeville students have earned 5 Gates scholarships, 2 POSSE scholarships, and 6 UNCF scholarships, with this year's senior class on track to earn $6 million in scholarship offers. While their classmates spent the day touring prospective colleges, the Bronzeville 12th-graders were busy completing senior exit interviews – a culminating event that requires each to create a portfolio of their high school experience and present it to volunteer business professionals in a goal-centered interview.
The 2014 college tour was part of Bronzeville's focus on College Match, which strives not only to get students to college, but to increase their odds of graduating.
"This college tour was important for Bronzeville, because it gave us new insight into college environments," said Sherena. "I know now what college is like and what to expect in the future."