Building Bridges After High School Graduation

Posted on June 26, 2018 in CEO Updates

 “I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school. It’s a big step and it’s scary. My family is watching me and wondering what’s next for me. And I wondered this year if I was worthy enough to go to college—can I even make it there?”

That is what Marcos Carden, a recent Franklin High School graduate, shared when we sat down with him to learn about his experiences at Franklin and what impact our shared work to improve college access among local students is having.

Marcos, a tall teen with a head of thick black curls and a bright energetic smile, came to Franklin two years ago after a rocky start at a neighboring high school. “I had made some choices that weren’t good and it was beginning to impact my mom. I needed a fresh start.”

Franklin is one of five teams in Multnomah County working in partnership with All Hands Raised to increase the number of students who access college and career training. Working with school leadership we built a team that is focused on results. Using real-time, disaggregated data the team designs and implements practices that are aimed at ensuring students graduate with a strong post-secondary plan. In addition to Franklin teachers, counselors and administrators, the team includes staff members from Impact Northwest and Portland Community College.

“We know that the reality of the summer between high school and what’s next is more challenging than is fully realized. While many of our students are enrolled in college at the time of graduation, many do not make it to the first day, much less through a full term,” said Franklin Counselor Holly Vaughn-Edmonds when describing the issue of “summer melt” and the team’s effort to address it. “We cannot simply hand our students a diploma and wish them well, we need to create a system that ensures our students, especially first-generation students, make it to their next destination with confidence and support.”

This year the team began building that system, deepening and accelerating the work that had been done over the last two years to increase completion of key federal financial aid forms (FAFSA). After raising the FAFSA completion rates by over 17 percentage points, the team focused on building a bridge to college—staring with Portland Community College’s Southeast campus.

Currently, 78% of Multnomah County high school graduates enroll in college, but only 37% complete. This rate is even more startling when you break down the numbers by race and income. The site teams All Hands Raised facilitates are addressing this with innovative system change work to ensure that every student has a plan and a path to success after high school.

“It may sound simple to offer a one credit PCC college success class for our seniors. It was not,” said Franklin College and Career Center Coordinator Raquel Laiz. “In addition to having to change systems so that a PCC class, for credit, could be taught by us on our campus, the reality is most of the students that took this class had to spend a few Saturdays with us, rather than at their jobs, where they earn much needed income. They put their faith in us—giving up the short term need in exchange for a future pay off.”

“I have a much better idea of what to expect, instead of just hoping everything is going to be okay.” That is what Marcos leaves us with before he turns to a computer in Franklin’s career center where Raquel is waiting to assist him in addressing some “to-dos” necessary to complete his financial aid application. With the bridge Franklin has built, Marcos is poised to arrive and thrive in college this fall.

Our shared impact is made possible by the generous support of our community. Thank you!