By: Brian Rosenbaum
A phrase we use a lot at College Summit is, “social innovation is in our DNA.” Part of that is because our founder and CEO, J.B. Schramm, is a social entrepreneur. He saw capable low-income students graduating from high school to the streets, and he created a model to get them on the college-going track.
J.B. founded College Summit with four high school students during a summer weekend. Neatly 20 years later, we serve 50,000 students in 15 regions of the country throughout the school year and summer. A key insight for our model’s success is that the person who is most influential to a seventeen-year-old is another seventeen-year-old.
Our Peer Leaders are rising high school seniors who receive training to leverage “positive peer pressure” to push and pull their fellow seniors along the college-going path. Their leadership and support can transform a high school’s culture to get every student talking and thinking about what happens after graduation. Postsecondary success becomes the expectation, not the exception.
For those who work at College Summit, there is also an expectation for innovation. We not only deliver what we do best, but we find opportunities to improve and grow. That’s how we greet every challenge. In Southern California, we saw only utilizing Peer Leaders meant we weren’t providing students with first-hand knowledge of why getting good grades in high school and enrolling in college would actually impact future goals and dreams.
We realized the College Summit alumni were the missing piece to complete the peer-to-peer experience and make a huge impact with our current high school students. Said another way: if the most influential person to a seventeen-year-old is another seventeen-year-old, then the second most influential person is the 18-, 19-, or 20-year-old who has shared their life experience and is succeeding in college and career.
The mantra for College Summit Alumni is “Inward Journey, Outward Service” – the idea being, personal development cannot happen without community service. We believe the Alumni presence in high schools will reinforce a major lesson from our Peer Leaders trainings: there are people out there who care about your success and are committed to helping you achieve it.
We created the concept of Alumni Teams to work directly with College Summit staff and support Peer Leaders at partner high schools. We envisioned Alumni Teams joining college application session events, FAFSA nights and talking to students from the Alumni perspective about their own high school and college experiences.
In our pilot year, we’re building a team of 10 Alumni for each of our partner high schools. Despite our fears that our busy Alumni would consider themselves too busy to “adopt” a school for the year, 36 answered the call to join on Facebook, within three days of posting. Two weeks later, we’re up to 52, with newly christened members actively recruiting other Alumni to join their teams.
This school year, we’re trying something new. Join us each month as we blog about the journey of the College Summit Southern California region to create a successful Alumni Team program in our 10 Los Angeles area high schools.
community building. Follow the adventure online at Facebook College Summit Southern California or Twitter @CollegeSummitLA