NoelaniMeet October’s alumna spotlight, Noelani Guerrero!

Noelani D. Guerrero is currently a Human Resources Coordinator at Nutter McClennen & Fish, LLP. She received her B.S. in Communications and Human Development from Boston College in 2007. Her goal is to continue working in the Human Resources field as a Generalist and ultimately a Manager. Noelani was born and raised in Boston and enjoys staying involved in community service. She currently serves on the Bottom Line Alumni Board and volunteers with the Hyde Square Task Force College Bound Mentoring Program. At some point, Noelani would like to go back to school and earn a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management.

High School: West Roxbury High School

College: Boston College

Graduation Year:
2007

Job: HR Coordinator Nutter

Bottom Line Memory: Go Far Dinner my senior year of college where I had made a connection with Eastern Bank employees and later got one of my first jobs out of college with them.

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with: Hand Sanitizer and Chap Stick (can never get enough), healthy snacks, chocolate, pens & pencils (that always manage to get lost), and a quote of encouragement.

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: The staff and supporters made a huge impact on my college application process and beyond. 

People would be surprised to learn that I used to: Stroll at parties with my sorority sisters….(I still do on occasions!)

The BEST part of being a college graduate is: Not being a student! No more early classes, homework, midterms or finals – although that prepared me for the real world experience, so I’m grateful for it.

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is: Finding a job that you like, with a company that you like where you can grow and see yourself long term. 

Join me in supporting Bottom Line by…. I supported the Rodman Ride by donating $100 dollars of my own money and fundraising another $500; join me and donate today!

 

During the 2013-2014 school year, Bottom Line’s six full-time career counselors will provide career services to approximately 600 juniors and seniors who are enrolled in our Success Program. Each student will meet with their counselor between 8 and 15 times over the course of the school year to determine a career path, edit cover letters and resumes, apply to internships and jobs, practice interviewing and networking, and find opportunities to build relationships with professionals in their areas of interest. Students will also have the opportunity to attend Bottom Line hosted career events through one of our career partners. Read more below about  Erin’s summer internship with Sun Life Financial, one of Bottom Line’s career partners.

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Erin (pictured left) is currently a junior majoring in Business Management at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.

How did your Bottom Line counselor help you find a summer internship?

My Bottom Line counselor helped me narrow down internship opportunities based on my major in Business Management. We did several internship searches together and she helped me tailor my resume and cover letter to fit various opportunities. Sun Life Financial is one of Bottom Line’s career partners, so when my counselor found out they were hiring interns, she sent job descriptions to me and helped me apply.

What did you learn from your internship?

I was asked to stay on by Sun Life Financial and I have been able to work there part-time during the school year, so I am still learning from this internship. I have learned a lot about what I am capable of doing: before this internship I was working at a convenient store, so having this internship has really helped me learn a lot about organization and professional skills.  My internship has also helped me to gain insight into the jobs that are available in my field. A lot of times college students don’t know what to do because they don’t know what they can do. One of my favorite things about working in HR is writing and sending offer letters. I remember being on the receiving end of that letter. It’s exciting because the offer is not just a job; it’s a career.

How is your Bottom Line counselor helping you with career preparation this year?

Now that I am a junior, I am even more focused on my future career path and where my experiences will take me.  I am going to focus more on networking opportunities with my Bottom Line counselor and I am looking into focusing my studies on Human Resources. I love working and I feel even more invested in my classes now that I can really see how what I am learning applies to a career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BL Students attend Success Send-Off at Hill Holliday

Bottom Line Students attend Success Send-Off at Hill Holliday

Bottom Line hosted its Success Send-Offs in Worcester and Boston. More than 300 students attended to celebrate the start of their college careers with Bottom Line.

In Worcester, students gathered at The Hanover Insurance Group campus where Assistant Vice President of Community Relations Jen Luisa addressed the group and acknowledged their tremendous accomplishment: applying and being accepted to college. Students heard from Yuisa Pérez Chionchio of Worcester Public Schools who wrapped up the Success Send-Off with an inspiring speech recognizing the importance of Bottom Line’s College Success program and its college counselors.

In Boston, students gathered at the Hill Holliday office in downtown Boston. The event kicked off with an address from Ruthanne Russell, a Salem State University alumna and Chief Human Resources Officer of the Hill Holliday. Russell has been on the Bottom Line board in Massachusetts since 2012. She encouraged the new college freshman to work hard in the future but also enjoy their success. Students also received advice from Bottom Line and Bridgewater State University alumnus Joe Bogle who drew on his own experiences to emphasize the importance Bottom Line support.

Students at both Send-Offs had the opportunity to meet peers attending the same colleges and their college counselors. They performed school cheers and discussed their excitement and anxiety about starting college in the fall.

The Success Send-Off is the culmination of a series of Bottom Line transition events designed to prepare the high school graduates to successfully enter college in the 2013-14 academic year. Students who complete Bottom Line’s College Access Program and attend one of 20 popularly attended Massachusetts colleges are eligible to join Bottom Line’s College Success Program.

 

Philistin, Johanne Meet July’s alumna spotlight, Johanne Philistin!

Johanne graduated with a B.A. in Accounting from Northeastern University in 2010. She is originally from Haiti, and moved to Boston ten years  ago. She is currently a Staff Accountant at Industrial Economics. Her goal in the next few years is to go to graduate school and get a CPA license. Johanne currently resides in Hyde Park where she enjoys riding her bike.

 

High School: Hyde Park High School

College: Fisher College & Northeastern University

Graduation Year:
2010

Job: Junior Accountant

Bottom Line Memory: The first time I met Dave, I remember him trying to reiterate the fact that the service was free and I thought it was a sales pitch just to get me to sign up. Little did I know the service was, in fact, free.

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with:
Starbucks gift cards and Kit Kats

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: They supported me through college, and now it’s my turn to support them.

People would be surprised to learn that I used to: Do ballroom dancing. ( I wasn’t a pro or anything, but I wasn’t bad either.)

The BEST part of being a college graduate is: No homework! (Just kidding). Working in my field and putting all of that theory into practice.

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is: Loan repayment  

Join me in supporting Bottom Line by…. Joining me on the Rodman Ride or supporting me by going to my fundraising page to contribute!

On September 28th I will be riding 25 miles in a non-competitive ride to support Bottom Line. I ride with Bottom Line because I want those college students to have the same opportunity that I had as a Bottom Line student. I was in their shoes not too long ago, and I know what it feels like to want to walk across that stage and receive that diploma. I believe Bottom Line can help them achieve that goal, and I want to contribute to their success and be part of their journey.

This summer at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury, Bottom Line hosted a series of Training Camps for over 400 students who will be starting at one of our target colleges in the fall. Training Camps are a day- long series of workshops to help students prepare for the transition to college in their first year. Counselor-led workshops provide students with practical academic and time management skills as well as tips on how to adjust to campus culture and take advantage of campus resources.

Training Camp also allows students to meet peers who will be attending the same colleges in the fall and to get excited about the opportunities available at college and through the Bottom Line’s Success program. See below for short interviews with Bottom Line students who attended last month’s Training Camp.

Graciela Peña graduated from Boston Latin Academy. She will be starting at Boston College in the fall.

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Graciela Peña

What are you most looking forward to about college?           

I am most excited about meeting new people from different parts of the country. I am also excited about studying abroad. I have heard the Boston College has great study abroad opportunities and I am really looking forward to taking advantage of all of the things the campus has to offer.

How has your Bottom Line counselor supported you?

Joe was a great counselor; he helped me with everything. He was very patient and motivated. He made the whole process of applying to college less stressful.

Katerine Garzon graduated from East Boston High School. She will be starting at Suffolk University in the fall.

Katerine Garzon graduated from East Boston High School. She will be starting at Suffolk University in the fall.

Katerine Garzon

What are you most looking forward to about college?

I am looking forward to graduating and receiving my diploma.

How has your Bottom Line counselor supported you?

My Bottom Line counselor was extremely helpful, he told me what paperwork I needed to complete and helped me get everything in on time. I could not have finished my applications without him!

 

Carine Barbosa graduated from Boston Community Leadership Academy. She will be starting at Fitchburg State University in the fall.

Carine Barbosa graduated from Boston Community Leadership Academy. She will be starting at Fitchburg State University in the fall.

Carine Barbosa

What are you most looking forward to about college?

I am looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things. I am also looking forward to being more independent.

How has your Bottom Line counselor supported you?

Bottom Line has supported me a lot. They really helped keep me on track and always called. Even when most of my application was complete, they still called to make sure I was following up with everything.

 

Boston College Students answering questions

Boston College Students answering questions

On Saturday, March 16, Bottom Line students and staff came together for Bottom Line’s first ever College Expo!  The event was an opportunity for Bottom Line high school seniors in our Access Program to learn more about the target colleges that Bottom Line works with in our Success Program directly from our college students.  Almost 100 high school (Access) tudents attended the Expo and got to speak with more than 50 Bottom Line college (Success) tudents representing all 20 of our Massachusetts target colleges.  

Although the College Expo was an event catered toward our high school seniors, it also allowed our Success students the opportunity to give back to Bottom Line as volunteers.  The tables at the college fair were staffed by current Bottom Line Success students representing our target colleges.  The Success volunteers answered our Access students’ questions about topics ranging from majors to dorm life and housing to studying abroad and more.  The College Expo was a great opportunity for our Access students to hear more about Bottom Line target schools from other Bottom Line students that were in their shoes just a few short years ago. 

Students from Suffolk University

Students from Suffolk University

In addition to the college fair portion of the Expo, Access students had the option of attending two workshops.  The first workshop, led by Access counselors, helped students identify the important factors to consider when deciding which college to attend once they have received all of their acceptance letters.  Access counselors stressed to students the importance of visiting the colleges that have accepted them, if possible, before making their decision. 

In the other workshop, Success counselors explained how Bottom Line’s Success Program works and what students can expect should they choose to attend one of our target colleges and join Bottom Line’s Success program.  This was great for the students who attended from the West End House Boys & Girls Club in Allston who will be joining our Success Direct program.  This is an exciting new initiative for Bottom Line to recruit students from other college access programs “directly” into our Success Program.  Our goal for next year is to recruit 410 first year students from our Boston and Worcester Access programs and 115 Success Direct students from other access programs join our Success program for the 2013-2014 school year.  This workshop was a first step towards reaching our recruitment goal. 

UMass Boston table

UMass Boston table

The College Expo gave Access and Success students an opportunity to interact with one another and allowed our Access and Success staff to collaborate in the planning and execution of the event.  The College Expo highlights Bottom Line’s core values of relationships and responsibility.  Our students and staff collaborated building relationships across programs, and the students who attended the Expo gained additional knowledge to help them make a responsible college decision this spring!

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— Michaela Kinlock

Success Counselor, Boston MA

Bottom Line students at the Share The Dream Banquet, Feb 2013

Bottom Line students at the “Share The Dream” banquet, February 2013

This past February, I had the privilege of attending the annual “Share the Dream” banquet for students in the College Now/START program at UMass Dartmouth. Carol Spencer, Director of College Now Program, said that it is held every year to, “celebrate the success of the College Now/START Program.” The first-years are “officially welcomed into the University by receiving a certificate acknowledging their completion of the program.”   Staff say that, “The Banquet is a wonderful way to celebrate and empower our students to continue striving.”

College Now/START is an alternative admissions program that supports students throughout their first year of college, by providing additional academic support and mentoring. Many Bottom Line students are enrolled in this program and have begun to see the benefits of taking a reduced course load and attending extra tutoring hours their first two semesters of college. There are currently 30 first-year students from Bottom Line in College Now/START Program, and 52 Bottom Line students have participated since 2009.

My student, Etiene, was asked to be one of two current College Now students who gave a speech at the banquet. In the days leading up to the event, he said that he was nervous and yet his speech was ready, thanks to the support of his College Now advisors and the Writing Center. At the “Share the Dream” banquet, Etiene brought the crowd of students, parents, faculty, administrators, and supporters to their feet! I could not have been more proud of him and was truly moved by his speech.  Etiene was also awarded a $3,000 Talent-Merit Scholarship from College Now.  It was a testament to his hard work this past semester.

Etiene, as he gives his speech at the Share The Dream Banquet

Etiene, as he gives his speech at the “Share The Dream” Banquet

I believe that alternative admissions and bridge programs at colleges are great options for hardworking and determined students who need more help preparing for college. UMass Dartmouth is not the only school with these types of programs. Students can often find summer programs or first year intensive programs that will help support their academic needs. Programs such as Passport at College of the Holy Cross, AID at Worcester State, OTE at Boston College, and PLUS at Framingham State are all great examples of alternative admissions or bridge programs.

Some students are discouraged or disappointed to find out they have been selected for such programs because they may have to take a reduced course load, spend a few weeks of their summer taking college classes or attend mandatory tutoring sessions. These students should be excited for such programs! Not only do they offer lots of academic support in order to succeed in the first year of college, but a chance to build stronger relationships with peers and school administrators with which many students to not normally get the chance to interact. Bridge programs help students gain comfort with the rigorous coursework found in many college-level classes and understand what the rest of their years in college will look like. Over 90 Bottom Line students from the high school Class of 2012 went on to attend bridge programs at Bottom Line’s target colleges.  I love it when our students are able to take advantage of existing resources to better handle the transition to college and help them reach graduation.

– Kira Terrill

Success Counselor, Worcester

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Success Counselor Ali Lincoln and her student, Robert

Senior Success Counselor Ali Lincoln and her student, Robert

It’s financial aid renewal season for Bottom Line Success counselors, and as many of our first-year students are finding out, it’s something that happens every year of college. Initially, it seems like a piece of cake, since there’s only one school to worry about instead of the ten schools they applied to last year.  However, financial aid renewal is a multi-step process for most of our students that typically drags on throughout the whole semester. Even within the same school, some students have different requirements, and my email inbox has been steadily filling with panicked messages about missing documents, requirements that have already been fulfilled (or so a student thought), and upcoming deadlines.

Counselors start by looking at deadlines for each school that they work with, and make sure to schedule time to help students file their initial FAFSA before each deadline. Essentially, resubmitting information from the current school year’s Student Aid Report shows intent to attend and receive aid the following school year.  Schools want to ensure that each student receives the aid that they deserve and they each decide how the student proves their income.  The school may require an online or paper form sent, a tax transcript submitted, CSS Profile, or IDOC be completed to confirm income.  Accordingly, Bottom Line counselors review these ever-changing financial aid applications with our students.

After students and their households have received 2012 W2s, 1099s, and filed their taxes, counselors help students update their FAFSAs. Students may be selected for a process called verification, and be required to submit additional forms, their passport, or tax transcripts. Some students are able to use the Data Retrieval Tool, which directly links tax information from the IRS to the FAFSA. Not every student can use this, and then they need to request tax transcripts online, over the phone, or in person. Often, the deadlines for these follow-up steps aren’t as clear as the priority financial aid deadline at a school, but delays in these steps can severely affect a student’s aid for the following year.

Financial aid renewal is an intimidating process; missing a step or turning in something late jeopardizes a student’s ability to pay for school. Bottom Line counselors diligently help students through every step of this long, annual process, and we’re also working to help our students become better self advocates and take on more personal responsibility when it comes to financial aid. We’re helping them stay on top of deadlines, coaching them through calls with financial aid, showing them where to find the forms they need and how to fill them out, and following up to make sure that all of their questions are answered. It’s a lot of work, but staying in school and on track to graduate is a great motivator!

– Ali Lincoln

Senior Success Counselor – Worcester, MA

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Deb blog picSupporting students through the financial aid process has always been an integral part of Bottom Line’s services. Each January and February, counselors are busy meeting with students to submit their FAFSAs (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and CSS Profiles, and sometimes additional verification materials to make sure that they secure financial aid awards from their schools.

Here in New York, though, things look a little different. There’s a state-wide college access program in which all public colleges and many private colleges participate, collectively referred to as “Opportunity Programs.” The program was developed by the state legislature in the 1960s to provide access to higher education for the “educationally and economically disadvantaged” students in New York State. The great news is that this gives many Bottom Line students the chance to be admitted to colleges where they otherwise might not get accepted to because of grades and test scores.

The other part of this process, however, is that before students can officially be admitted to one of these Opportunity Programs, they must provide financial verification to prove that they are in fact “economically disadvantaged.” For some students, this process is pretty straightforward. They get their parents’ tax forms, fill out some paperwork, and send them off.

However, for those of our students who have more complicated family situations or whose parents receive public benefits, verifying family income becomes a much more complex process. We are coaching students to compile a whole host of financial documents that they have never heard of before. We are tracking down 1099s and W-2s from agencies and employers; we are helping students find a notary to sign their non-tax filer form; we are on the phone with families to compile all sorts of legal and financial documents.  Plus, spaces in these Opportunity Programs fill up on first-come, first-serve basis, so time is of the essence.

Financial aid can often be a frustrating and time-consuming process.  More importantly, financial aid is a critical piece of our students’ future success.  When all the pieces come together after a lot of hard work, it is fulfilling to see students get accepted to great colleges and receive the financial aid they deserve.

– Deborah Steinberg

Bottom Line Counselor

New York

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Justin Strasburger - Worcester Site Director

Justin Strasburger – Worcester Site Director

It’s no secret that here at Bottom Line, we love data! In my mind, the best use for our data is to help us evaluate our programs, make necessary adjustments, and ensure the highest quality service for our students. It was with this in mind that, last summer, we took a look at the way we track the services we provide our college students.

Tracking our Success program poses a challenge because each student requires such individualized support. Without good data, it is hard to see patterns that allow us to take a more proactive approach with our students. What we came up with was a system to formalize the services we were providing to students: Success Service Plans. The concept was pretty straightforward: counselors would be able to plan out a semester’s worth of goals and corresponding services for each student and track them in our database. This allows counselors to think ahead and keep track of any follow up that needs to happen.

The Service Plan system we developed also provides us with a huge amount of data to better understand our students’ needs and our program’s capacity to meet these needs. A good example of this is the way we plan out campus visits. In the past, we have planned campus visits by school year and DEAL (Degree, Employability, Aid, and Life) color status (Green, Yellow, and Red).

We  allocated roughly three in-person meetings for 1st year students and students who were Red or Yellow. Typically, we had two in-person meetings with Green students. While this has never been set in stone, this assumption was necessary from a planning standpoint so that we could allocate our time appropriately. We all recognized that it was not as simple or clear-cut as saying that all students get two or three on-campus visits. Some may need more in-person meetings, while some may need less (but potentially more follow-up services). Without clear data, though, it was difficult for us to know if these assumptions made sense. Introducing Success Service Plans for each student has allowed us to truly move our program away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

While we are still completing our biannual assessment process, I have began to run some reports to see what the Success Service Plan data can tell us about the Fall 2012 semester. Here is what I found:

¨       Bottom Line’s 1,391 Success students (this does not include students who are currently not assigned to a counselor) received 8,876 total services, an average of 6.38 services per student.

¨       Of these services, 5,523 (or 59%) were in-person services (either occurring on campus or in our offices). This is a per student average of 3.76 in-person services (already above the 3 campus visits we have planned for our neediest students).

¨       The percent of total services provided by class year, is pretty close to the percent of total students by class year with the exception of Seniors. For example, 1st years account for 36% of Bottom Line’s students and accounted for 38% of the total services. Seniors account for 12% of Bottom Line’s students but accounted for only 6% of the total services. This is not terribly surprising as part of our work with Seniors is to help them become more self-reliant. This means that they likely required less follow-up services.

¨       Our Red (22%) and Yellow (22%) students received far more in-person services than Green students (14%).  On average Red students had 4.51 in-person services and Yellow students received 3.79 in-person services.  This information will help us to better plan out our campus visit needs.

I also took a look at services completed by college attending. To avoid small sample sizes, let’s consider colleges where Bottom Line has at least 25 students. We have 18 schools that fit this description: 10 public and 8 private. Despite this fairly even distribution of public vs. private schools, services were not as evenly distributed. The top 6 schools in terms of average services provided per student are all public schools. This is likely due to a higher concentration of Red, Yellow, and 1st year students at these schools. We can use this information to potentially allocate more time to a school like UMass-Lowell, where students required an average of 5.31 in-person services, than a school like Northeastern University, where students required an average of 2.66 in-person services.  It also shows that we need to do further analysis to make sure we are adequately serving all our students.

In a lot of ways, this data confirms our assumptions. It is important, however, that we are not working off of assumptions and instead base our plans off of data.  This body of information becomes increasingly valuable as Bottom Line continues to grow. As we expand into new markets and grow the number of students we are working with, thoughtful planning will be very important. While moving to the Service Plan system took some adjusting, I am confident that it will continue to prove a useful tool for counselors to more thoughtfully plan out their semesters, and for management and program development teams to better plan our curriculum and program implementation.

 

Justin Strasburger

Worcester, MA- Site Director

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