Newsletter: August 1, 2020
Mychal Wynn (Northeastern ’79)
The Rest of the World is Not Waiting
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has filled many high school students, particularly seniors, with anxiety about returning to school or trepidation about passionately embracing the forced transition to virtual learning. However, the rest of the world is not slacking off and the competition from international students for seats in the freshman class at U.S. colleges and universities will be fierce. With so many colleges waiving SAT and ACT score requirements, colleges will increase their scrutiny of course taking, grades, leadership, service, and how students made a difference in their homes and communities in response to COVID-19 disruptions to their normal lives. More than ever, students will need college planning guidance to assist with navigating the changes to college admissions and the huge increase in applications that colleges will be receiving as they change to test optional admission policies. While these changes can provide opportunities for students with the right planning, packaging, and essays, they will present huge challenges for many thousands of students who fail to embrace or respond to the new normal.
High School Seniors
Pictured above is our July Zoom session with high school seniors discussing their ‘My Story’ essays. Our monthly virtual sessions are great! The small group discussions, lead by Charles and Lora Williams, and supported by a team of college students from our College Planning Cohort Alumni Leadership Board: Whitney Williams (Spelman College;) Jayla Shoffner (North Carolina A&T State University); Sydney Barron (North Carolina Central University); and Justin Matthews (Dillard University), engaged in small group conversations with seniors about their essays. The discussions about students’ autobiographical essays provides a context for how a student’s brand develops over the course of his/her lifetime. Eventually, each student’s ‘My Story’ essay will provide the foundation for their Common Application essay and responses to writing prompts.Throughout the country, people are living their stories through protests, on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, and dealing with an imploding economy resulting in job loss, eviction, and hunger. College admissions officers need to know each student’s story as the context for understanding a student’s body of work.
Recap: 4-day College Planning Boot Camp for High School Students
We hosted an extraordinary all-virtual college planning boot camp for high school students. Our college interns included: Damian Lee (Northeastern University); Jayla Shoffner (North Carolina A&T State University); Justin Matthews (Dillard University); Kristen Starks (University of Richmond); Robert Penn (George Mason University): Summer Ford (University of Georgia); Sydney Soskin (University of Chicago); Sydney Starks (Bowdoin College); and Whitney Williams (Spelman College). Our high school interns included: Ava B. (Lake City High School (SC)); Couper W. (Ragsdale High School (NC)); Haley H. (Lake City High School (SC)); Jada F. (South Cobb High School (GA)); and Omar D., (Paulding County High School (GA)).
From the beginning, the boot camp started with a strong start that pushed me and motivated me to own the process and take my future into my hands. I really enjoyed not only seeing familiar faces amongst the students in my class but also amongst the interns that were leading my group. It brought me a sense of belonging and created an environment where I could focus on achieving all my responsibilities during the boot camp. Furthermore, the website and classes through which we completed the majority of our work were well organized and filled to the brim with new information. The online text was also riddled with stories of inspiring students who have participated in the program and went on to be accepted into amazing colleges.
The rest of the boot camp continued the process of building my knowledge and motivating me to develop grit in anything I do, whether it be on filling my body of work or applying myself academically. I hope to continue with the program and I have set a plethora of academic, community, and personal goals to pursue for the rest of the year. I would also like to increase my role in this process and obtain a leadership role within the cohort through which I could lead other students towards academic success and college acceptance. Thank you for granting me the opportunity to learn and dedicate myself to the previously inexplicably intimidating process of college application and acceptance.
St. Petersburg High School Class of 2022
Recap: 4-day College Planning Boot Camp for Middle School Students
We registered over 125 students for our all-virtual college planning boot camp for middle school students. Our college interns included: Justin Matthews (Dillard University); Nina Shack (Middle Tennessee State University): Summer Ford (University of Georgia); Sydney Barron (North Carolina Central University); and Sydney Starks (Bowdoin College). Our high school interns included: Ava B. (Lake City High School (SC)); Carmen S. (Middle College @ GTCC (NC)); Couper W. (Ragsdale High School (NC)); Jada F. (South Cobb High School (GA)); Joanne L. (St. Petersburg High School (FL)); Joshua S. (Merriville High School (IN)); Myah J., (Northside Christian School (FL)); Omar D., (Paulding County High School (GA)); and TaRetta B. (Hillgrove High School (GA)). We were also supported by our first middle school interns: Jack H. (Bay Point Middle School (FL)); and Jocelyn L. (Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School (FL)). We also welcomed to our team, Dr. Lois McKee, Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School Counselor.
The 4-day boot camp culminated with students submitting action plans, many of which were in the form of PowerPoint Presentations, through which students shared their school-year goals, college/career aspirations, gifts and talents, personality type, and Interest Profile. Some of the 8th grade students who “Owned the Process,” will be allowed to participate in our 2020/21 9 – 10th Grade Online Classroom.
Hello Mr. And Mrs. Wynn,
Thank you so very much for the opportunity to have my child join the boot camp program! This experience has been invaluable for our entire family. My son, a rising sophomore, also joined alongside his sister and was able to complete the assignments as well. In the past, he has struggled to find something that would spark his interest in regard to a direction for his future and college. However, with your program, in these four days, using his personality and talents he has pinpointed anthropology as a direction. It’s hard to remember another time he was so excited about something related to school. To say this has thrilled us is an understatement. We would like to foster this excitement and help direct him and *keep* him focused in the right direction.
We would like to have him officially join the high school program. It has been a joy to watch the kids work so hard on their futures this week!
COVID-19 Updates to our 2020/21 Program
When colleges are no longer considering test scores in their admission decisions, it is more important than ever for students to present admissions officers with a seamless body of work: classes; grades; leadership; service; teacher recommendations; awards; and essays, that collectively tell a story—providing a context for a student’s passions and establishes a clear case for what makes a student an exceptional applicant. While the presentation of a student’s body or work involves packaging, developing the body of work itself, requires strategies. Consequently, to support robust small group conversations in our monthly virtual sessions, we have made updates to our curriculum. The September through January Modules provide guidance in developing a set of strategies within 5 distinct areas of each student’s college-bound plan to achieve exceptionality in one or more areas of each student’s body of work:
- Part I: Gifts and Talents
- Part II: Personality and Interests
- Part III: Coursework
- Part IV: Activities and Service
- Part V: Leadership and Awards
The small group discussions about each student’s set of strategies are supported by college graduates, like our son, Mychal-David Wynn, a Certified College Advisor and graduate of Amherst College, and college students serving on our College Planning Cohort Alumni Leadership Board who, like Nina Shack (pictured above), discovered their passions and are pursuing their dreams. Nina, a member of our 2019 Turner Chapel AME Church Cohort, received her professional pilot’s license and drone certification prior to entering college at Middle Tennessee State University, where she is pursuing her dreams of becoming a commercial pilot. These small group conversations, guided by college students representing a broad range of HBCUs, liberal arts colleges, and research universities proved enormously popular among students and parents during our summer boot camps.
Register Now or Sponsor a Student
Since 2013, our College Planning Cohort Program has made a difference in the lives of thousands of students from underserved communities. Among them are Damian Lee, Torch Scholar at Northeastern University; Mikayla Hanna 2015 Gates Millennium Scholar; Rebeca Pacheco, 2016 Gates Millennium Scholar; Christian Hanna, Hamilton College; Crystell Phoenix, Northwestern University; Hali Shaw, Claflin University; Brenna Kaplan, Amherst College; Latajah Alford, Claflin University; Etame Kandy, Swarthmore; Bre’an Moore, Carleton College; Sydney Soskin, University of Chicago; and Kimberly Hadaway, Williams College. The lives of these students and their families were forever changed because the students were deserving of the opportunity and someone connected them to our program.
We encourage school districts, sororities, fraternities, Boys and Girls Clubs, and faith-based organizations who may not have the people or financial resources to support a cohort to sponsor 1 – 5 students who are deserving of the opportunity to participate in our program. Without the support of programs like ours, such students will continue to “Undermatch.” The Inside Higher Ed article by Scott Jaschik (April 2018), “The Missing Black Students,” notes:
- black students are the most likely to enroll at a college less selective than their qualifications would permit
- students who are undermatched — many of them minority students — are less likely to graduate on time than are those who attend colleges that match their abilities
- the rate of college undermatch was highest for black students (49 percent), followed by white students (45 percent), Latino students (41 percent) and Asian students (31 percent)
Each high school could easily sponsor their top 5 performing students with little impact to their overall school budget. Title I high schools could sponsor many more students. Once a student is registered in our program, their school has no further responsibility. We immediately replace feelings of cultural isolation with a shared identity by immersing students into supportive small group learning communities of students from diverse backgrounds with similar college/career aspirations. For many students, our program is not only God sent, it is a transformational experience.
I would like to start off by saying I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this program. I learned so much more in the past four days about college and scholarship opportunities that I have in the past three years of attending my high school. I would love to continue the FGCSA College Cohort program and to continue to learn more about how I can build a stronger résumé for the remainder of my senior year. I know my current résumé is very unimpressive, but I assure you I will work hard to find opportunities to volunteer my time into my community, school, and academics. From this experience, it has become very clearer to me that in order to become a successful scholar, I will need to work hard and “own the process.” I hope that one day I will be one of those students profiled in the curriculum. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of this boot camp, I can honestly say this experience has completely changed my mindset for the rest of the year and has opened my eyes to what it takes to become a successful scholar.
Eliana G. | Ragsdale High School Class of 2021
Mark Your Calendar
August 8, 2020: High School Senior Class will meet from 9:30 am – 1:00 pm. Participation is mandatory. Only opened to registered students. Click here for the Zoom Session.
September 1, 2020: 2020/21 Online Classrooms open to all registered students in grades 9 – 12.
September 12, 2020: High School Students (Grades 9 – 12) will meet from 9:30 am – 1:00 pm. Only opened to registered students. Click here for the Zoom Session.
Need to Register?
- 9 – 10th Grade New Students
- 11th Grade New Students
- High School Seniors
- Returning students receive a $100 discount, to register click here...
Nationally Recognized | 2020 Magna Award First Place Winner | National School Boards Association. 2020 Full Scholarships: Appalachian State; Benedict; Bowdoin; Carleton; Claflin; Johnson & Wales; North Carolina A&T; North Carolina Central; Tuskegee; UNC – Pembroke; University of Chicago; Wake Forest; and Williams.