President's Perspective

High School Graduation and Beyond

June 01, 2016

by Carol Thompson Cole

Oh, how time flies.

This has been a joyous spring for my family. We are celebrating the achievements of nieces, nephews, cousins, and close friends. Ryan, Jonathan, and Claudette are now college graduates. And we are praising Niya, Larkin, Joyce and Kayla, who completed high school this month.

It is hard to believe they have reached these milestones. It seems like yesterday when they started school. Some days have been tough and there have been twists and turns in their journeys. Now we are applauding their successes. And they are planning for the next phase of their lives.

It takes caring adults to help young people make the transition to adulthood. Sometimes those adults are family members and sometimes they are community members.

As high school and college graduation season winds down, I want to recognize the hard work of our youthCONNECT partners who developed innovative programs in our communities to ensure more young people graduated from high school, went on to college and stayed in college once they got there.

Our youthCONNECT partners worked with VPP to develop a network of high-performing nonprofits who worked collaboratively to provide nearly 22,000 vulnerable youth with a range of services and support to help them develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors needed to graduate from high school and go on to succeed in postsecondary education and in the workplace. Some benefits for the youth served by youthCONNECT in Washington, D.C., include:

High school completion rates increased over time, so that more young people were able to enroll in college or participate in a career preparation program;

Nine in ten youth applied for college; and

Eight in ten youth completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, enabling more youth to qualify for college scholarships, grants and loans.

Our investments have had a positive impact on college attendance and persistence. We have supported students in three critical areas:

  1. Navigating the College Application Process
    College Summit–National Capital Region further grew its core services and evaluated and expanded its Launch curriculum. Our investment allows them to expand their college preparation and application program offerings to more than just 12th graders—thus treating all four years of high school as a launch pad to college.
  1. Getting Accepted Into College
    Urban Alliance grew the number of youth served by its high school internship program, created an alumni services department and developed a curriculum outreach program for high school and disconnected youth. Through youthCONNECT, they formed a high-quality, experimental design study to confirm that their program did indeed increase high school graduation and college enrollment rates.
  1. Persisting In College
    KIPP DC’s KIPP Through College program provides a model for other KIPP sites and schools that struggle to get their students across the college finish line. This program focuses on comprehensive support to ensure that all KIPP alumni have the tools and support they need to graduate from college.


Looking Toward the Future

We applaud all of our graduates and wish them well as they enter college, prepare for a postsecondary credential, or enter the world of work.

I share my family’s pride as Ryan starts his first full-time job in information technology while taking classes for a master’s degree; Jonathan prepares for law school and Claudette advances in her career. Larkin enters a workforce preparation program in the fall while Niya, Joyce and Kayla start college in September.

We will continue to be champions for all of our young people so they become thriving adults who will also give back to their communities.