Jahki graduated from Achievement First Amistad High School in 2012 determined to become the first member of his family to earn a college degree. Now, as he continues to work toward the true summit—college graduation— the AF “Team & Family” that helped him climb the mountain to college remains
by his side.
At Achievement First, we celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of our high school graduates, but we recognize that the journey for these students is just beginning. Nationally, only 8.3 percent of low-income students graduate from college within six years. This is the reason that our work extends far beyond the intensive programming provided at the high school level to targeted alumni support designed to foster persistence and help students reach their college goals.
“Academically, financially and socio-emotionally, college is a massive adjustment, especially for first-generation students,” said Megan Fraker, network director of alumni programs and partnerships. “There are many obstacles and academic landmines our kids could step on, and our support is critical in navigating them.”
AF’s alumni counselors provide this critical support while working in partnership with college officials, alumni and families to ensure college success and degree attainment for all of our college students. Our counselors maintain a vital connection with our alumni through emails, phone calls and on-campus meetings, and by helping to connect them with campus resources. An alumni counselor helps Jahki and other alums break down obstacles into manageable, bite-sized pieces.
A justice, law and administration major at Western Connecticut State University, Jahki said AF’s alumni program “makes a huge difference” in his college experience. During his freshman year, Jahki struggled in his classes. Without the help of his alumni counselor, Jahki would not have connected with a campus champion who helped him create his class schedule, learn more about his professors and find summer jobs. This help enabled Jahki to significantly boost his GPA during his freshman spring semester. His alumni counselor also helped him work through financial aid issues so that he could return to college for his sophomore year.
Sheridan, an AF Brooklyn High alumna and civil engineering major at Howard University, said frequent contact with her alumni counselor helps her to stay on track.
Through our Alumni Program, students like Jahki and Sheridan receive small scholarships each semester in exchange for sharing their academic performance, course schedule and other information. This not only allows us to maintain a vital link with our alumni and identify areas where they may need outreach, it also provides us with data we can use to help our current students improve. For example, when counselors saw some of our alumni struggling in psychology and physics, we began a process to modify the high school science curriculum to help future alumni succeed. In order to help our students feel more comfortable meeting with their professors, we instituted teacher office hours for high school juniors and seniors.