College Bound Today is a program for parents and students in the Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) designed to increase the number of MUSD high school students who apply to and are admitted by 4-year colleges. The program was launched at Schurr High School in February 2009, and expanded into Bell Garden High School in 2010. College Bound Today will expand into Montebello High School in February 2012, and has been invited to expand into the Applied Technology Center in 2013.
Students join College Bound Today in the 10th grade. Over the course of five semesters, students:
- work with volunteer mentors at monthly Saturday morning meetings on the school campus
- visit more than 10 area colleges
- learn about the importance of extra-curricular activities
- make sure their course selections are appropriately rigorous and challenging
- learn about financial aid, and learn how to find and apply for scholarships
- prepare for the SAT
- become part of a college support group
- learn how to prepare a strong college application
In February 2009, 74 tenth grade students at SHS became the first group of students to enroll in the program. This “pilot group” of students was divided into 10 teams. Each team of students was assigned to work with a group of 3 mentors during the next 5 semesters. In June 2011, 61 students completed the program. They all graduated from SHS, and 60 of them are now attending college. Nearly 75% of these “pilot” students are in the first generation in their families to attend college.
In 2010 and 2011, 4 new groups of 10th grade students joined the program at SHS and BGHS. At the present time, more than 220 MUSD students in the 11th and 12th grades are working with 80 volunteer mentors in the program. In February 2012, 150 new 10th grade students will be selected to join the program at SHS, BGHS and MHS. 54 new mentors are currently being recruited to work with these new students.
All new mentors are encouraged to participate in a special 3-hour orientation/training session that is held on a Saturday morning at least one week prior to their first meeting with students. This session is led by Peggy Saferstein, a highly respected private college advisement counselor who volunteers her time as a consultant to the program. A few days before the meetings, the mentors receive via e-mail detailed discussion guides for use during the meetings. Before the students arrive at the school for their Saturday morning meetings, the mentors are briefed by the college counselor and program leaders regarding the plans for the day. From time-to-time, parents are encouraged to attend the meetings so the entire family can learn about the college application process together.
Over the course of 5 semesters, the meetings focus on several different themes, including: the importance placed by colleges upon students’ extra-curricular activities (e.g., community service, summer jobs and summer school, and leadership activities outside of the classroom); making sure that the courses selected by each student are appropriately rigorous and challenging; on-line practice to improve test scores; learning about the full range of possible college choices throughout the United States; learning how to prepare for college visits; learning how to complete applications for financial aid and scholarships; and writing practice essays designed to improve writing skills.
Students attend college fairs at which a number of colleges make presentations. In their 10th grade year, all students and their parents participate in a campus tour of Cal State Los Angeles. In their 11th grade year, all students participate in the following activities:
- visit at least 4 local college campuses in carpools driven by their mentors
- visit 6 major colleges and universities in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas transported in buses paid for by MUSD
- take a free 30-hour SAT preparation course taught in MUSD classrooms by Compass Education Group, one of the best tutorial services in Southern California
College Bound Today is a program of Creative Education Partners, which is sponsored by Community Partners, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Los Angeles. Funds for the program are raised through donations from private individuals and grants from foundations, law firms and corporations. A Program Advisory Committee meets regularly with staff and provides regular oversight.
Mentors are recruited, trained, assigned and supervised by College Bound Today, with the active support of MUSD. Before they can start working with students, mentors must arrange for a Live Scan criminal background check to be conducted by the California Department of Justice, and they must provide to MUSD the results of a TB test administered within the past 3 years. Parents must provide written consent for their children to participate in the program, including permission for the students to be transported to and from program activities.
A study conducted by UCLA in 2009 found that, on a statewide basis in California, there are more than 1,000 students for every single college counselor in the public high school system. In many high schools, there are few if any special programs to assist students with preparing college applications. Many families in MUSD have only limited experience with higher education. College Bound Today helps MUSD high school students overcome these obstacles by empowering them to become more competitive applicants to 4-year colleges.
The program was co-founded in 2008 by Todd Clark, Emeritus Executive Director of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and by Dan Clement, a former trial lawyer who previously worked in the Sempra Energy Law Department, Sidley & Austin, and the Office of the United States Attorney for the Central District of California.
College Bound Today has already recruited more than half of the 54 new mentors who will be needed to work with the new 10th grade students starting in February 2012. However, we are still looking for 20 new mentors. Please help us!
Volunteers who are interested in becoming mentors should contact Dan Clement
at either (213) 346-3281 or email@example.com
. Mentors must have college or other post-secondary educations, and they must commit to attending all program meetings. Mentors are expected to work with their assigned students for at least two and a half years, and they are encouraged to stay in touch with, and continue serving as resources for their students after they have enrolled in college.