September 1, 2021
Mychal Wynn (Northeastern ’79)

Welcome to our 2021-22 College Planning Cohort

The colleges and universities (pictured above), to which many students in our 2021 Cohort received full scholarships, is a particularly impressive list in light of the traumatic disruptions to high schools, colleges, and the lives of students and families due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. An example of the traumatic impact of COVID-19 was in Guilford County Schools, where our longstanding contract and nationally recognized First Generation College Student Ambassador Program was abruptly disbanded and ended the district-sponsored college planning guidance for 100 students and families. However, contract or no contract, we did not abandon students. Our staff, interns, and volunteers continued supporting students throughout the 2020-21 school year and finalizing their enrollment decisions into such schools as Appalachian State; East Carolina; East Tennessee State; High Point University; North Carolina A&T; UNC – Chapel Hill; and UNC-Greensboro.  

Leadership and Service

Lake City Early College High School junior, Jada Jones (pictured above), was interviewed by WBTW News in South Carolina while volunteering to support Florence School District 3 Superintendent, Dr. Laura Hickson’s opening of the district’s tutoring and writing center. Jada, who served as a discussion group leader, intern, and on our 2020-21 Youth Leadership Board, was joined by former cohort and current Francis Marion University student and South Carolina Teaching Fellow, Haley Hardway. Jada and Haley are working closely with Dr. Hickson to make an impact in their local community and expand college access for all students.

College Interns/Mentors

We have an extraordinary group of former cohort students, now attending college, who are serving as interns and discussion group leaders: Ava Bingham (Clemson); Faith Kumi (University of Chicago); Haley Hardway (Francis Marion); Peyton Wilson (George Washington); Robert Penn (George Mason); Sydney Barron (North Carolina Central Honors Program); Sydney Soskin (University of Chicago); Tristyn Brothers (Claflin University Honors College); and Whitney Williams (Spelman College Honors Program). Kimberly Hadaway (Williams ’21), currently pursuing a PhD in math at Iowa State University, will be mentoring high school seniors planning to pursue college majors in math and science.

Community Volunteers

Our team of community volunteers have firsthand experience with our program through their children. Ms. Carolyn Crook, whose daughter, Arielle, has a BS in Biology from Xavier University of Louisiana and a MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University; and son, Kenneth, has a BS in Business Management from North Carolina A&T State University. Mr. and Mrs. Charles and Lora Williams, whose daughter, Whitney, is a current senior in the Spelman College Honors Program. Ms. Kim Pope, whose son Darrin, is now employed with Ingall’s Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia. Ms. Venetta Bridges, whose daughter McKenzie, has a BS in Physical Therapy from Florida State University and a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Georgia State University.

Our brilliant group of Discussion Group Leaders include Rev. Dr. Yolanda Davis, Manager of Spiritual Care at Mercy Care in Atlanta, GA; Lake City Early College High School Counselor, Ms. Kendra Wilson; and Florence School District 3 Director of College and Career Readiness, Mr. Leon Burgess. Our program is also supported through our longstanding partnership with the Alpharetta-Smyrna Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., ASA Kappa League College Planning Cohort, Mr. Doug Lucas (Director), and mentors Mr. Brian Thomas, Mr. Clarence Burge, Mr. Derrick Parker, Mr. Eric Henderson, Mr. Ernest Glenn, Mr. Hayward Richardson, Mr. Milford Rosemond, Mr. Rodney Eberhardt, and Rev. Don Ezell.

Our September Cohort Session

We will host our first meeting of the 2021-22 school year at 10:00 am on Saturday, September 11, 2021. We will discuss the important aspects of our program; respond to parent questions; and assign students to grade-level discussion groups. Our program is developed on the principle of cultivating conversational communities in a safe space and supportive environment where students can freely share their hopes and aspirations as they engage in discussions with students from throughout the United States.

Our guest speakers will be West and Heather Brothers, parents of our 2021 Cohort triplets who were awarded a near full scholarship to Wesleyan University; and full scholarships to the North Carolina A&T Honors Program, and the Claflin University Honors College (collectively valued at over $500,000 over 4 years). The meeting link will be sent via email to all registered students and parents. Dr. Laura Hickson, Superintendent of Schools in Florence District 3 and Minority Achievement Officer, Dr. Lewis Brinson, from Pinellas County Schools will bring opening remarks.

College “Planning” versus College “Readiness”

College readiness can be defined operationally as the level of preparation a student needs to enroll and succeed—without remediation—in a credit-bearing general education course at a postsecondary institution that offers a baccalaureate degree or transfer to a baccalaureate program (Source: Redefining College Readiness). College readiness is the core focus of such programs as AVID and Upward Bound.

College planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve a desired goal—albeit admission to a particular college, being awarded a full scholarship, or both. A plan represents a set of goals and objectives to achieve a desired result and engaging in consistent and persistent efforts to achieve the goals set out in the plan. In essence, college readiness is focused on being prepared for college, while college planning is focused on the actions required to be offered admission to the ‘right’ colleges, accepted into the ‘right’ programs, and awarded the ‘right’ scholarships—resulting in on-time degree attainment and avoiding student loan debt. 

Former cohort student and 2021 Rhodes Scholar, Samuel Patterson, III, exemplifies the difference between readiness and planning. His Georgia high school did an excellent job guiding him in becoming “college ready.” However, participation in our cohort guided him in developing a plan, which led him to the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, a program of which neither his fellow students nor high school counselor had any prior knowledge. At UMBC, the Meyerhoff Scholars Program Coordinators guided his planning into being selected as a 2021 Rhodes Scholar. His high school made him “ready” for the opportunity, while the cohort and the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, provided the “plan” to take advantage of the opportunities.

Keys to Success

The key to success in our program is not based on academic performance or maturity, but on student effort. Successful students “Own the process.” The work in our program is not overwhelming nor is it complicated. However, the work is intentional. Strategies do not evolve from wishful thinking, but from engaging in intentional actions. Students are required to read and follow instructions as preparation for successfully applying to college and for scholarships. Students are required to respond to writing prompts as preparation for writing college and scholarship essays. Students are required to engage in small group discussions as preparation for engaging in college classroom discussions and interviewing for scholarships. Students are expected to take personal pride in their work and in their preparation for our monthly meetings in a manner consistent with developing the high quality body of work needed to be offered admission to top colleges and to qualify for top scholarships.

11:59 pm Deadline

With the exception of September, students must submit their final presentations by 11:59 pm on the final day of each month. This allows discussion group leaders and interns time to review and comment on each student’s presentation. However, in preparation for our first meeting, students are expected to complete their presentations by 11:59 pm on September 10th.

While most students are self-motivated and take personal pride in their work, this is not the case with every student, particularly those who lack time management skills. For some students, the key to their success is parent involvement. Parents must help students manage their time by developing consistent schedules and routines. Parents must demonstrate that the work is important by reviewing their student’s work prior to our 11:59 pm deadline. And, parents must require their students to put forth the effort required to be prepared for the monthly discussions.

College planning is a team sport. A student who is offered admission to a top college, together with a full scholarship, benefits his or her entire family. In contrast, a student who is not offered admission to the ‘right’ colleges or awarded the ‘right’ scholarships, is likely to assume thousands of dollars in student loan debt and will cause his or her entire family to suffer. 7 out of 10 (69 percent) college students are leaving college with nearly $30,000 in student loan debt and over 1 in 10 parents (14 percent) will borrow nearly $38,000 in Parent PLUS loans (Source: A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2021). Students who lament that they don’t have time for college planning, don’t need college readiness, they need a psychiatrist!

Florence School District 3

Florence School District 3 Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Laura Hickson, is ensuring that her students have every opportunity to develop a comprehensive college-bound plan. Her 2021-22 initiatives include supporting college readiness through the Writing Center and college planning through the Florence School District 3 College Planning Cohort. Click here to view the district’s College Planning Cohort video.

Monday and Wednesday from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm: The all-virtual Writing Center is open. Any student, or parent, in the district can bring their homework, test preparation, or essays for review and support. High school seniors can receive guidance and editorial review of their college and scholarship essays and communication with college admissions and financial aid officers. Students should register with their counselor. Click here to attend…

Tuesday and Thursday from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm: The all-virtual College Planning Cohort sessions are offered to all high school students in grades 9 – 12. Students receive hands-on instruction in completing the monthly units and engage in discussions about the activities in the curriculum and opportunities in their local community to pursue leadership and service aligned with their gifts, talents, and college/career aspirations. Interested students should contact Ms. Kendra Wilson in the Guidance Office.  Click here to attend…

We are not aware of any other school district in the country providing this level of support to ensure that students from lower income families; those who are the first in their family to attend college; undocumented students; or any student with college-bound hopes and aspirations has one-on-one college planning guidance and support. Through Dr. Hickson’s initiatives, students in Florence School District 3 have been selected as Gates Millennium Scholars, QuestBridge Scholars, Northeastern University Torch Scholars, UMBC – Meyerhoff Scholars, and South Carolina Teaching Fellows. Wishful thinking has been transformed into intentional planning.

Attention Seniors

As a result of the COVID-19 disruptions to high schools, colleges, and SAT/ACT testing, college essays are more important than ever. Over 1600 colleges are now test optional and relying on essays as part of their holistic admissions review process. Essays cannot be an afterthought, but must become the primary focus of each student’s college and scholarship applications. Unfortunately, only 3 percent of high school seniors are advanced writers (Source: NAEP Writing Results). Most students put off writing their college essays until close to college and scholarship deadlines and will invariably submit poorly written essays that do not take advantage of the opportunity for increasing their chances of being offered college admission or competitive scholarships.

All high school seniors are encouraged to register for our 4-session Essay Writing Workshops designed to guide students through the entire process of developing a high quality, strategic, and intentional Common Application Essay. Click register here…

Online Classrooms Open Today

All registered students, who have completed the new student activities, and updated their résumés and profiles, will be assigned to a grade-level appropriate online classroom:

  • 2021-22 9th – 10th Grade Classroom
  • 2021-22 High School Junior Classroom
  • 2021-22 High School Senior Classroom

Mark Your Calendar

September 1, 2021: 2021/21 Online Classrooms open to all registered students in grades 8 – 12.

September 11, 2021: Our September Session will kickoff with a large group presentation for all registered students and parents, during which we outline our 2021-22 program, introduce our Discussion Group Leaders.

Meeting Format:

  • 10:00 am – 10:45 am: Large Group Presentation.
  • 10:45 am – 11:30 am: Grade-level Breakout Sessions
  • 10:45 am – 11:15 am: Parent Q&A
  • 11:30 am – Noon: Large Group Wrap-up 
  • Noon – 12:30 pm: Senior Parent/Student Q&A

Click here to learn more about our cohorts and other programs…

Nationally Recognized | 2020 Magna Award First Place Winner | National School Boards Association.