Program Pushes College Preparation

Aisha Jenkins, 17, wants to be the first in her family to graduate from college, but wasn’t sure of how to begin.

LevelTen’s One-on-One College Readiness program offered her the information that her parents could not.

“I want to be a role model for my brother,” Jenkins, a senior at Howard D. Woodson High School, said. “That’s why I try to do good in school and stay involved in programs.”

The January program – held at Fletcher Johnson School in the southeast quadrant of Washington – offered six seminars focusing on college preparation to junior and senior high school students. The seminars discussed time management, preparing college applications, finding scholarships and financial aid, writing personal essays and choosing the right college.

In addition to getting help on her personal statement, Jenkins wanted to learn about financial aid and scholarships so she could relieve some of her parents’ stress. She also hoped to win a laptop, one of the door prizes.

After completing the seminars, the high school students met with mentors from area colleges to work on application weaknesses and talk about college life.

“For students who wanted to become more knowledgeable about the college process, the one-on-one program is more impactful,” said Daphne Charles, director of community mobilization for LevelTen.

Among the mentors were students from Howard University’s National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Health Professions Society. August Slater, a member of the collegiate scholars, was eager to help the high school students on their journey to college.

“Seeing that someone else needed my help really made me feel a great sense of purpose,” Slater, a psychology major, said.

She said counselors offered help and counseling during her senior year of high school, as well.

“Without that,” Slater said, she and other classmates “wouldn’t have known what we were doing.”

Biology major Jade Mims also served as a mentor at the program. At first, she said that she wondered if it was too late for some of the students. Many of them were in their senior year and had never taken the American College Test (ACT), a college performance indicator usually taken during the junior year of high school.

“I learned [that] a lot of younger generations need help with college advising,” Mims, a sophomore with the health organization, said.

According to Kids Count, only 27 percent of students in the District live in household where the head has a college degree. With a father who hasn’t finished high school and a mother who only attended college shortly, Jenkins is not one of them.

“Many times volunteers realize the depth of their impact through really digging into the personal story of each student,” Charles said.

LevelTen’s three-fold purpose focuses on academic programming, community mobility and online outreach, which allows them to use online resources to find volunteers in the community who want to tutor and mentor the youth in an effort to close the achievement gap. Through programs like College Readiness 2009, LevelTen is able to bring high school students and mentors together.

After revising her personal essay, Jenkins and her mentor discussed school, life at Howard and the different sources of financial aid and scholarships. They even signed up for some scholarship Web sites, including Scholarships.com and Scholarshipexperts.com.

Although Jenkins did not win the grand prize, she left with her mentor’s number, a $25 iTunes gift card and a boost of confidence.

“I look forward to going back to younger kids when I’m in college,” she said.

For more information on LevelTen and its programs, visit www.level-ten.org.