Summer is already a hard time for students. Many often suffer from “summer melt,” wherein they either lose their momentum from the end of the semester or get sidetracked by new priorities that push them away from their path to college. This phenomenon is especially pronounced for high school graduates starting college in the fall, and it is for this reason that we host Fulfillment Fund University every summer to help ensure that our rising college freshmen are on track and focused to start college.
However, students across all grade levels are also challenged by setbacks over the summer, and the pandemic heightened the risk of severe academic and educational losses. Many students and families felt disengaged from school during the last semester of the school year due to the stay-at-home orders and the challenges posed by lack of or limited technology. We knew we had to do more to keep students on a steady path to achieving college-going goals. The pandemic continues to have the potential to derail years of hard work for thousands of first-generation students.
This summer, we launched our Virtual Summer Academy, designed to extend learning while creating social and emotional connections that keep parents and students engaged in their school community. This program included the following three modules:
- Virtual College Access Boot Camp, serving rising seniors through live workshops that integrate English Language Arts skill-building alongside activities that foster social-emotional learning and connection to help students draft their personal statements for college applications — more important than ever as colleges move to SAT/ACT test-optional and reduce the emphasis on this past semester’s grades.
- Summer Enrichment Series, serving rising sophomores through seniors via live life-skills workshops and discussion forums featuring virtual tours of historic landmarks and college campuses, self-care activities, volunteer opportunities, and others activities that encourage connectivity and relationship-building while enriching academic learning across a variety of subjects (e.g., history, geography, civics, math). This series also includes college planning and career readiness sessions and encourages peer-to-peer and peer-to-counselor connections via smaller group discussions.
- Parent Institute, featuring bilingual workshops focused on helping parents support their students’ academic success and increasing their college-going knowledge. Targeting parents of rising sophomores through seniors, these live virtual sessions focus on financial literacy and financial aid, graduation, effective communications strategies, practical tips and tricks for how to navigate the new virtual education platforms, and admissions requirements and other college access knowledge, providing breakout rooms for small group discussions by grade level and language to address questions, build connections, and gain grade-specific information on the session topic.
Our Virtual Summer Academy not only served as continuous feedback to help us prepare for the Fall semester as we advance our programs to virtual platforms but importantly, helped us to continue to nurture trust relationships with our students and parents, which will be critical to navigating this new school year of learning in a physically distanced setting.