Strive Emphasizes Collaboration for Higher Education
An Accessible Dream
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, May 13, 2013 20:05
For a high school graduate, the prospect of attending college in the fall may seem daunting. Among these rising first years’ worries are being able to make new friends, maintaining stellar grades and involving themselves in as many extracurricular activities as possible. Coming from all over the world to many different universities, they yearn for the abstract idea of the grand undergraduate experience that their older friends have told them about, but upon their arrival, they still do not know what to expect from the four years ahead. Though each of them has grown up in a different background and has received a different education, they are all united by an important achievement: overcoming the college application process.
Strive for College Collaborative is a national foundation that is committed to guiding students at low-income, urban public high schools through the college search and application process. With chapters at 17 universities across the country, including Washington University in St. Louis and Georgetown, Strive individually pairs all high school students with undergraduates who devote a full year (starting in the spring) to not only mentoring them through their SAT prep, applications and enrollment but also motivating them, bolstering their confidence and helping them find their potential. Having just gone through the experience themselves, these college students have an updated understanding of the process and can effectively communicate that knowledge to their mentees.
“That’s the whole premise of the Strive model: [It’s] that the people who are best suited to work with these kids are literally the people who just went through it,” said Allie Liotta (COL ’15), the Georgetown chapter’s director of internal relations.
Because private and public schools offer different college counseling services, Strive seeks to help and inform those high schoolers who would not normally have access to the resources they would need to begin applications or to find out which schools best fit their personal interests and financial needs.
“[These public schools have] two guidance counselors for 300 kids in a grade,” said the president of Georgetown Strive, Eric Vorchheimer (MSB ’14). “That’s not enough, so we act as sort of a surrogate guidance counselor or function in the role of a guidance counselor. Not to say that they aren’t professionals, they do their job and they do it well, but it can be tough for two people to deal with 300 kids.”
Added Liotta, “My mentee is my sister’s age, [and] my sister is applying to college, and then I think that speaks to the whole struggle that they’re seeing: that my sister has a lot of support and my mentee does not.”
After learning about her sister’s involvement with the organization at Duke, Ricki Eshman (COL ’14) decided to found a chapter of Strive at Georgetown last year. Having registered with the Center for Social Justice and its Advisory Board for Student Organizations, Eshman established a partnership with Strive’s national chapter and began recruitment and searching for potential public high schools to collaborate with in the fall of 2011.
“Bell High School, which is in Columbia Heights, was by far the most cooperative,” said Vorchheimer, a former SAT tutor who served as the Georgetown chapter’s director of curriculum at the time. “You really need collaboration from the guidance department if this is going to work.”
Georgetown Strive started to work with Bell High School that spring, and its inaugural class just graduated at the end of last semester. They have added another high school to their roster this semester and are looking for committed and friendly students to join their organization.
Offering a full-year curriculum for second-semester high school juniors and a condensed curriculum for those who started in the fall, Strive aims to develop trust and friendships between the college mentors and their mentees by pairing them in one-on-one partnerships based on mutual or similar interests.
“For example, there are some kids who are interested in business, and they’re paired with mentors who are in the business school,” Liotta explained. “You definitely form a very personal relationship with your mentee, which is important. We really like to emphasize texting your mentee [and] checking up on them. It’s a good working relationship, and it’s like a friendship relationship, too.”
Vorchheimer added, “We refuse to not do one on one just because it’s not the same. It’s the best way to really get the most out of your kid, and it’s the best way for the mentors to get the most out of their experience.”
By giving the students such individualized attention, each Strive mentor reassures his or her mentee that he or she is committed solely to his or her own mentee’s success. In addition, because the mentors carry over from their students’ junior spring to senior fall semesters, the high schoolers do not have to worry about readjusting to the teaching style of another college mentor.
The undergraduates meet with their mentees once a week and work on material supplied by the national chapter with them for one hour. Though this curriculum is mostly standardized, the mentors have to tailor it to fit the pace and needs of their students as due dates approach.