Sonia Essaibi - New York Counselor

Sonia Essaibi – New York Counselor

It’s a fun time of year to be at Bottom Line, and I know it’s just going to get better and better. Bottom Line helped over 200 New York City students put their stars on the “I HIT SUBMIT!” wall and will continue to work with them on the path to making a responsible choice of which college to attend next year.  In the midst of all this energy, we are also thinking about those students, who in just a few short months will be in our current high school seniors’ shoes. We are going to serve an additional 100 more students bringing our total to 300 high school students in the Class of 2014.

The Outreach Team has begun putting word out that we are accepting applications for the Class of 2014 in a big way. As a first-year counselor at Bottom Line, it’s been a great experience so far. We’re reaching out to school personnel with whom we already have relationships and forging new ones to expand our reach in order to help more and more eligible students. These students should live in New York City, have at least an 80 GPA, come from a low-income family, being the first generation of their family to earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States, and be U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents.

Our current high school seniors are also spreading the word by telling their junior friends. This year, we are piloting “Student Ambassadors,” seniors who will spread the word about our program to juniors at their high schools. To date, we’ve reached out to more than 25 current seniors to see who would like to be a part of this student-led outreach approach.  Then, applicants can indicate on their Bottom Line applications that they heard about our program from one of these Ambassadors. It’s a fun competition for the Ambassadors, too- whoever receives the most referrals by June 1st wins a $50 gift card!

We’ve also started doing presentations at area high schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx. The Outreach Team is planning to conduct over fifteen presentations across the city to publicize our program. Our goal is to talk to juniors about the services Bottom Line provides.  Additionally, we also discuss the college admissions process in general so they are better prepared as they embark on this life-directing process of college applications. Students are engaged during our presentations and ask great questions.  Students learn important milestones, for example the almost universal college decision day of May 1st. After discussing all the steps along that timeline the reactions on the students’ faces are priceless. They see themselves using our help and it shows in our numbers. We’ve just begun and we’ve already had 116 students apply!

 – Sonia Essaibi

Bottom Line – New York Counselor

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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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JohnsonGregIt is hard to believe that 2012 has come and gone.  Time flies at Bottom Line, especially at the end of the year when high school students are scrambling to send off their college applications and colleges students are wrapping up the fall semester and waiting anxiously for their grades.

I am pleased to say that in 2012, Bottom Line did our part to jumpstart the economy, adding 12 new full-time staff positions and producing 120 new college graduates. Some of the year’s other highlights include:

We launched our national support office and began to look at additional expansion opportunities.

Our New York office doubled in size from 4 to 8 staff and served more than 300 students in just our second year.

In September we kicked off a $5 million growth campaign in Boston and announced a $2.5 million dollar gift from the Grand Circle Foundation. Inside of 5 years, we expect to reach virtually every eligible high school and college student in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury and provide them with Bottom Line’s one-on-one support.

We continued to refine our College Success program model and curriculum to ensure the highest level effectiveness and lead the national dialogue.

At Bottom Line, every year has been bigger and better than the last and we expect this to be true again in 2013.

  • Our NY office will once again double in size – growing from 8 to 16 employees.
  • We plan to open a second Boston location in Dorchester, MA to make it even more convenient for all Boston students who want access to our support.
  • We expect at least 160 new college graduates by Summer 2013.

As the year winds down, with few exceptions, we see very little movement on the national scene that would make our work unnecessary.  While there is constant rhetoric about making college accessible and affordable and ensuring more students graduate, the systems that surround higher education are very slow to change.  College costs continue to rise, student to counselor ratios remain ridiculously high and colleges rarely recognize that that the bureaucracies they have in place don’t yet serve the first-generation, low-income students who they enroll.

So Bottom Line must grow- we must continue to be available to serve the students who need us, and we must spread the word that there is another way.  High-quality, relationship-based advising can steer disadvantaged students towards the finish line and help build their impoverished communities that are so desperate for our help.

– Greg Johnson

CEO, Bottom Line

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As Bottom Line starts its new school year, we have a larger staff that is larger than ever! Here in Boston we have hired 11 new full-time members of the program staff, allowing us to expand our Success and Career programs while continuing to serve our 500 high school seniors. Bottom Line carried out an intensive 8-week training process this summer to prepare new staff to help our students overcome challenges getting into college, staying on track to graduate, and finding a job upon graduation.

 Throughout this time, new staff got overviews on programs and history specific to Bottom Line as well as background information on student demographics, the high schools and colleges that we work with and much more. New counselors also get trained to meet with their students by watching meetings conducted by experienced counselors, by doing “mock meetings” amongst each other, by conducting their own student meetings with assistance from an experienced counselor and then by holding meetings with their students they felt prepared enough to do so. We call this the “apprenticeship model” and while it takes a long time, it is very thorough.  As a result our staff is fully prepared to help our students overcome any challenges or issues that arise.

 As a busy season full of visiting college campuses, filling out common applications and writing essays kicks into gear, our new staff is enthusiastic and ready to take on all the challenges that come their way! For me, this is the best time of year because I can see all the hard work done over the summer leads to strong results we are able to achieve with our students.

– Miriam Rubin

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Dear Friends and Supporters of Bottom Line,


16 years ago, Bottom Line began working with our first class of 25 students – helping them get in to college and graduate. We started Bottom Line because so few students were actually making it to and through college from Boston. We believed then, as we do now, that building strong relationships with students and providing meaningful long-term support would make the difference. After 16 years, with nearly 750 college graduates and a college graduation rate of 74%, we have shown that this is true.


On Wednesday September 12, we had the privilege of announcing to more than 100 of Boston’s community leaders that Bottom Line is launching a $5 million growth initiative over the next five years. We will expand our programs so that every eligible 4-year college-bound student in the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan will be able to receive Bottom Line’s support. Alan and Harriet Lewis and the Grand Circle Foundation have generously committed $2.5 million to Bottom Line over the next five years for this initiative, the largest gift in our history. We are launching a campaign to raise the second $2.5 million.


Through this ambitious plan, we will double the number of students we support in Boston – growing to nearly 2,900 high school and college students receiving our support annually, up from just over 1,400 students last year. We will focus our growth on Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan, the neighborhoods of Boston most in need of this support. And we plan to support these communities more deeply, through partnerships with the other organizations involved in the lives of our students.


As supporters and friends of Bottom Line, you already know the importance of our work, and it is entirely thanks to you that Bottom Line is able to impact the lives of so many students. We believe that growing to serve a critical mass of young people from Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan will have a ripple effect on the educational attainment, health and prosperity of those communities. As we begin this new trajectory of growth and renew and expand our commitment to the city of Boston, we look forward to sharing our success and learnings with you.


Thank you for your belief in our mission, our students, and our organization.


Mike Wasserman
Executive Director – Massachusetts

P.S. As always, if you have questions or want to learn more about our plans for community partnerships and our $2.5 million campaign, you can always contact me at or 617-524-8833.

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Earlier this month, students, staff, volunteers, supporters, and corporate and community leaders gathered at The Westin Copley Place Hotel in Boston to celebrate 15 years of helping students get into college, graduate from college, and go far in life. College students Yaritza Peña, Melissa Peña, Julie Rorie, and Joe Rowell spoke of the challenges that they have overcome to succeed in college and their experiences growing up in Boston and participating in Bottom Line. Bentley University President Gloria Larson reminded us of the need for a college-educated workforce and the benefits of providing services to students on campus. The event also honored USA Funds CEO Carl Dalstrom for his ongoing commitment to low-income and first-generation students; Senior Vice President of Access and Outreach Bob Ballard accepted an award on Dalstrom’s behalf. Because of the generous support from the attendees and sponsors, $550,000+ was raised to help low-income and first-generation students complete a college degree. Thank you to everyone who continues to provide students from our community with the guidance they need to reach their full potential.

As part of the event’s programming, we presented this video, which shares some students’ thoughts and experiences about college and Bottom Line.

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In 2011, Bottom Line…

  • Guided 145 high school seniors and 91 college students from Worcester to and through college
  • Guided 493 high school seniors and 852 college students from Boston to and through college
  • Helped 137 new graduates finish college, which expanded our alumni network to include 608 individuals
  • Increased our lifetime graduation rate to 74%, which is nearly twice the typical graduation rate for students from Boston
  • Helped 97% of high school seniors who completed our College Access Program enroll in college this fall
  • Launched a third office in New York City and began to serve 125 high school seniors in Brooklyn

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters (that’s you!), students from low-income homes and the first generation of their families to attend college received the guidance they need to earn a college degree. With a college degree, these students are much more likely to obtain high-paying jobs, build meaningful careers, provide adequate care for their families, and become engaged members of their communities.

To read more about the incredible feats that you helped students achieve during the past year, download Bottom Line’s 2011 Annual Report or the Year in Review of our Massachusetts or New York programs.

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Ernest J. Newborn II, chairman of the USA Funds board of trustees congratulates Greg Johnson, Executive Director of Bottom Line

If you haven’t heard yet, Bottom Line was recently selected as the winner of a national competition for a $1 million award to support college success. Out of the 51 applications they received from across the country, USA Funds decided to present Bottom Line with the Trustee’s National Award for College Success. The award was created to “advance the complementary national goals of increasing the percentage of American adults with college degrees to 60 percent by 2025.”

Last week, USA Fund’s staff and board traveled to Boston to announce the award, with Bottom Line staff, students, and board members also in attendance. Ernest J. Newborn II and Greg Johnson (above) both spoke about the need for programs that help students succeed in college and how Bottom Line and USA Funds will work to meet those needs. Javier Hernandez, a graduating senior at UMass Boston and active participant in Bottom Line’s College Success Program, was able to share how Bottom Line has affected his life.

The generous grant will be paid to Bottom Line over the next three years; it will ultimately help Bottom Line replicate the College Access and College Success Programs in New York City and expand to serve 3,200 students annually across Massachusetts and New York by 2015.

Our staff and students are very grateful to our supporters (that means you!) for helping Bottom Line reach this exciting point in our growth and success. Because of your belief in our mission, we will continue expanding to help more students reach their full potential.

It’s official: Bottom Line has an Executive Director for our New York City site, which will launch in July 2011. Ruth Genn, currently the Director of the College and Career Pathways unit at New Visions, brings Bottom Line:

  • a familiarity with NYC’s education environment
  • a knowledge base of the challenges NYC students face
  • the leadership, experience, and drive to combat the staggering college retention problem
  • a dedication to evaluation and data analysis for measuring the success of programs and policies
  • an understanding of today’s urban education issues from a teacher’s, policymaker’s, and program director’s perspective

As head of Bottom Line’s new site, Ruth will reach out to local schools and youth-serving organizations that serve students who would benefit from Bottom Line’s programs. She will lead a college counseling staff of three through the training and implementation of Bottom Line’s support services. She will research and connect with local colleges that will most likely enroll our students. And she will spread the message that helping students simply “get in” is not enough.

With Ruth’s leadership, Bottom Line will replicate our college retention model in NYC and show that the success of any student is possible when he or she is given the guidance and support needed to earn a degree.


About Ruth Genn
Ruth Genn is joining Bottom Line as the Executive Director of the newly opening NYC office. Previously, Ruth worked at New Visions for Public Schools, where she launched and directed the College and Career Pathways unit. As the department’s director, Ruth oversaw the development of New Visions’ college readiness platform, a set of research-based benchmarks that articulate what students should know and accomplish during each year of high school to be prepared for post-secondary success. She also managed the cultivation of partnerships that brought resources and supports to New Visions schools. Prior to this role, Ruth created New Visions’ first data unit, where she developed an early warning system and a set of tools that help school leaders, teachers, students, and families track students’ progress toward graduation.

Before joining New Visions in 2005, Ruth worked in City Hall on the integration of after-school services across several NYC agencies. She has experience in K-12 education policy at the local and state level, and began her career as a NYC public school teacher. Ruth holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. She grew up in Tenafly, NJ, and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her family.

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The Social Innovation Fund has become the focus of a lot of attention recently. This $50 Million initiative, approved as part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, has created an opportunity for organizations to access significant government funding and publicity if they have innovative and effective programs. It just so happens that Bottom Line does have innovative and effective programs, and so for the first time, we find ourselves pursuing public funding.

In the past, we have been happy to entirely fund our programs from private sources. We stayed away from public funding because the opportunities were almost always either too focused or too broad, and they came with strings attached that would have forced us to change our programs. But now, this fund isn’t looking to restrict what programs are doing. Instead, they are looking to take good ideas and allow them to grow. It’s a whole new ballgame for public funding, and for the first time we feel like we have a chance. We have strong evidence supporting the fact that our programs make a significant difference in the lives of our students. We are focused on an issue that is gaining attention, but has far too few solutions being discussed. This is the right time for Bottom Line to gain a voice in the discussion about how to help students succeed at the national level.

The Social Innovation Fund would provide this opportunity. The funds are being distributed by intermediary organizations who are matching the government funding. We are in the process of applying to two of these organizations, New Profit and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. If we are chosen to receive either award, it would mean millions of dollars and invaluable publicity for our organization and our program model. This will be an incredibly rigorous and competitive process, and it feels like a long-shot because there are so many applicants and so few will be chosen. But, we are confident in our programs, their proven effectiveness, their ability to solve a national crisis, and so Bottom Line really does fit with the spirit and the mission of this fund. Hopefully we’re not the only ones who think so.

Mike Wasserman

Director of Development

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