Success Counselor Kira Terrill talking with a student at our Worcester Office

It’s hard for my First Year students to believe that the Fall 2012 semester is almost over! With that disbelief also comes the students’ awareness that their grades may not be as good as they were in high school. Many students really struggle with the transition from high school level to college level work.  Luckily, Bottom Line students have their counselors to really help guide them through the transition.  Bottom Line addresses this issue by providing summer programming and has developed specific tools to help our students find success during their critical first year.

Our summer transition program includes both group workshops and one-on-one meetings. One workshop on time management always seems to be especially eye-opening. After adding classes and study time to a weekly schedule, counselors bombarded students with different responsibilities and activities that also needed to be taken care of, on top of all of their studying and homework!  I can remember one student shouting “I don’t have time for all of this extra stuff!” Although a little early, it was an easy way for students to prepare for things they were about to face during their first (and every other) year of college. Some students immediately internalize the lesson and others need more reinforcing once they arrive on campus.

This fall, I’ve been working with many First Year students on improving their time management and study skills. I have 38 First Year students at four different colleges and have had 196 campus meetings and phone follow-ups this fall.  Additionally, I met with over 50% of my First Years who felt like they needed extra support for time management and test prep strategies meetings. Simply reading over notes doesn’t really cut it on college exams. My students and I have worked together to create study plans tailored to each of their exams, as well as their learning needs. With some students, I can simply suggest recopying and summarizing notes or making flashcards for vocabulary words. With other students, they may need to draw diagrams, attend tutoring and office hours, and form study groups. Helping students create these study plans and break down when things need to be done, makes the task of studying a little less daunting. Showing students how to put in a little extra effort and attack problems from different directions to make success possible shows the value of our meetings to my students and is why I love working for Bottom Line.

 

– Kira Terrill

Success Counselor

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NY Program Director Ginette Saimprevil meets with a student

 

It’s been a very difficult few weeks in New York City.  As you know, New York was hit by Hurricane Sandy on October 30th, devestating  many parts of our area.  Thankfully, here at Bottom Line we were relatively unharmed – our building did not lose heat or power in the storm.  Our hearts go out to our students, friends, family and others across the City who have suffered enormous losses from the storm.

 

The Bottom Line New York office closed for a couple of days immediately before and after the storm, but by Wednesday of that week, the counselors who could make it to the office – whether by foot, bike or bus – were there, calling and meeting with as many students as possible.  Our staff missed seven college visits during the week of the storm.  Some were made up through phone check-ins, and many were rescheduled for the following week.  We also missed over 30 Access meetings.  All of these meetings were rescheduled within a week of being missed – counselors worked extra days over the weekend, and our Program Director stepped in to pick up almost a full week’s worth of meetings.

 

We were able to make contact with all of our students and, thankfully, most were fine. However, a few of our students were greatly affected by the storm, and we are working to get them the help they need.  One thing we’re doing immediately is a professional clothing drive for students and families who lost belongings.   Although many subways, bridges and tunnels were closed for over a week after the hurricane, the Bottom Line office has been packed with students, and counselors have been coming in early and staying late into the evening to help students complete their college applications and stay on track with their school work.  We never cease to be amazed by our students who, no matter the obstacle, continue to stay focused on their goals.

 

Things are finally feeling almost back to normal for most people in NY, although a few communities continue to struggle without heat or power.  We are grateful for our relative good fortune and so proud of the way our team pulled together.

– Ruth Genn

Executive Director, NY

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Richard Pierre is a recent graduate from Bentley University (Class of 2011), with a B.S. in Marketing and a minor in Finance. He currently works as a Finance Specialist at the Boston Consulting Group. He is originally from Boston, MA and currently resides in the city. He enjoys playing basketball, football and dominos. However, he enjoys hanging out with friends, traveling and playing videogames on his downtime. His plan is to develop his career in the finance industry and build his network in the business world. He is also passionate about supporting his friends and family whenever they are in need.

High School: Boston Latin Academy

College: Bentley University

Graduation Year:
2011

Job: Finance Specialist at the Boston Consulting Group

Bottom Line Memory: Summer 2007, freshman farewell party

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with:
Airheads and Laffy Taffy’- and some winter gloves.

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: Bottom Line instills positive values in young individuals, and that’s something I will always respect.

People would be surprised to learn that I used to: Watch “Dawson’s Creek”.

The BEST part of being a college graduate is: That you can go out on the weekends, and not have to worry about homework that needs to be done on Sunday.

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is: Knowing that you can’t use the “I’m in college” excuse anymore…

Join me in supporting Bottom Line by: Staying involved, attending the events, spreading the word about the organization to those around you, and donating if you can. (Learn more about care package sponsorship here: http://bottomline.org/care-packages.aspx )

By the first week of November, I have packaged – Bottom Line lingo for submitting college applications with our students – seven students on my caseload of sixty-two. This is a huge step in the life of each Bottom Line student for a variety of reasons. Our students are often the first in their family to apply to college and, in many instances, are the first in their families to be on track to graduate from high school.

Packaging meetings last at least two hours; however, since Halloween candy appeared in the office, they have been running a little longer. Being the dork that I am, I started calling them “Snackaging” meetings; mostly to satisfy my own desire to sneak puns into my meetings, but also to break the ice and calm my students through the intense experience of actually hitting submit. After their college essays are checked twice (just like Santa’s list), and their Common Application and other applications are filled out – “I’s dotted and T’s crossed” – they sit down, fingers hovering over the mouse for a second, and, in one tiny movement, change the trajectory of the their prescripted lives. After submitting, our work here at Bottom Line is nowhere near done. We spend the last few minutes of these meetings creating checklists for follow-up and broaching the subject of financial aid – another application process we assist students with beginning in January.

Before our students head home, out into the wintry air, perhaps traveling over an hour on public transportation to get home – magic happens. In advance of their meeting, a yellow star is made with the name of said student printed in bold lettering. After a student has clicked submit, they place their stars on a wall in the office under the statement “I Hit Submit!” When a student makes a move towards the wall, star in head, whispers begin to fly around the office.  Heads turn and both counselors and students stop their work to clap as the student proudly places the star on the wall. “I have applied,” they silently declare, one giant leap towards something more.

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Hey, my name is Risa and I’m a college counselor with Bottom Line in New York.  Back in September I had my first trip to Buffalo. The rumors are true: it is really close to Canada! It’s also dark at night and has exceptional wings.

 Just like all Bottom Line college counselors, I visit my college students on campus monthly to meet with them one-on-one. Sometimes we problem solve (think “I don’t have my books!” or “My bill is incorrect!”), sometimes we prepare for the future (think “What classes should I take?” or “Can you help me edit my resume?”), and sometimes I’m just a familiar face from home with a handful of Jolly Ranchers, ready to listen.

 This year, I have the privilege of working with students from New York City College of Technology and Buffalo State College. After my first month of campus visits, I’d like to share some things my students have learned (and I agree with!) about transitioning to college.

 Five Ways to be Successful in College

 1. Get involved. Living in a 10′ x 10′ room with a total stranger is not easy and no one expects it to be! Join a club, volunteer, and attend activities on your floor or campus. Drag friends or roommates with you before you feel comfortable going alone (and then go with them to the clubs they are interested in). Becoming active on campus isn’t only a great way to make new friends, but it also helps many students feel like they’re part of the campus community (especially for commuters), and it helps with homesickness.

 2. Meet your professors outside of class. There’s a reason professors put their office hours on their syllabi: they want you to go to them! Lots of professors spend their entire lives studying what they’re teaching you in class and would love to answer your questions or chat about a subject you’re excited about. Hey, it doesn’t hurt for the professor to know your name (in a good way) when final grades come out.

 3. Try new things. What’s the worst that can happen? For many students, college is a time for reinvention. So what if you weren’t the type of student to participate in class in high school? Who cares if you never imagined yourself taking a dance class? Try it – you never know what may come of it if you don’t give it a shot.

 4. Start a study group. Or join one that someone else in your class created. Not only can you better understand the material if you’re reviewing it with classmates, but it’s a great way to make friends. And, teaching someone else something you already know is a great way to study for exams!

 5. Share your culture. Being away from home (physically or emotionally) can be tough. Some students who leave the city for college find a surprising lack of diversity in their new homes. Some students who graduated from small high schools and commute to college are suddenly a small fish in the proverbial big pond of NYC. Sharing parts of your home life with your college friends can help ease the transition. Have your new friends never seen a plantain? Cook it for them. Have they never heard about the Labor Day Parade? Show them pictures. Interested in vegan food and urban farming? There’s probably someone else at your school who is too! Use the opportunity to learn from others and teach others about yourself.

 
– Risa Dubow
Bottom Line Counselor
Brooklyn, New York
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Each month we will be profiling a new Bottom Line alumnus/a.  Meet Soane Mertelus!

Soane Mertelus works at State Street Bank as a Custody Specialist Associate.  She attended English High School and then Salem State University where she worked with her Bottom Line counselor, Amy.  While at Salem State, Soane worked extensively with the residential life office where she developed many events for undergraduates!  She majored in International Business and is considering attending grad school in the future.

High School: English High School

College: Salem State University  Graduation Year: 2011

Job: Custody Specialist Associate at State Street Corporation Bank

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with: chips, popcorn, a Bottom Line sweater, movie tickets, soup and a “You Can Do It” card.

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: I love Bottom Line.  They did everything for me.  I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have Bottom Line in my corner.  Throughout my years in college Bottom Line made sure I was on the right track with my classes and financial aid- my mom and dad had no clue how I made it through.  I want to give thanks to Bottom Line because they were there to support me and make me feel like I can do it.  I will do my best to support Bottom Line!

People would be surprised to learn that I used to: be a cheerleader at English High School, eat ketchup for breakfast, dance during the Celtics basketball games with my crew from middle school and constantly eat Snicker’s bars!

The BEST part of being a college graduate is:  That I DID graduate.  I have new friends and had a great time and now I have a degree.  Next stop, grad school! Thanks to Bottom Line I feel like I can go on and on without fear of being a failure.

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is: Looking for jobs and finally being in the real world that mom and dad talked about!

Want to share a memory or say hi to Soane?  Write a comment on this blog post!

Want to be profiled in next month’s Alumni newsletter and on the blog? Email Jen at JScherck@bottomline.org


Since the start of the school year, our Success Counselors have traveled to 20 campuses across Massachusetts to meet one-on-one with all of our 1,300 students. Liz Hood, a second-year Success Counselor, reflects on a busy month of the school year…

In the month of September, I had ninety-one campus meetings and traveled a total of four hundred and thirty-two miles to visit students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Boston College and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Despite that seemingly never-ending stretch of I-90 between Worcester and the exit off to Amherst (I went to Smith College and the Pioneer Valley will always hold a place in my heart) one of the things that I enjoy the most about being a Bottom Line Success Counselor is the ability to support students on campus and in person. A standard meeting that takes place in September is the first year check in meeting. This forty-five minute meeting addresses issues related to academics, campus life, financial aid and anything else that may arise.

Last month, I met with all of my first year students on their own campuses.  By being on campus I am able to more effectively connect students to the resources that are available to them and encourage them to advocate for themselves. First year students are often times intimidated by the idea of asking for help. The other day I met with a student who had an unresolved issue with her bill and she did not know where to go or what to ask.  We discussed her bill issue and acted out the conversation in a quick role-play, and I walked over with her to the bursar’s office.  She was able to resolve the issue on the spot. Another student I met with was struggling in Chemistry class, but did not know where to go for extra help.  We went to the tutoring center together and he signed up to meet with a tutor once a week.

I really enjoy working with first year students; I get to watch as students see the world opening up to them.  There is so much optimism and excitement as they begin to figure out who they want to be and what they want to do. I strongly believe that campus visits play an integral role in strengthening counselor-student relationships and demonstrate to students that Bottom Line is really invested in their success and wants to see them excel.

Liz Hood

Bottom Line Success Counselor

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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.

 

Sincerely,
 
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 mike@bottomline.org or 617-524-8833.

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Each month we will be profiling a new Bottom Line alumni.  Meet Hung Le, on his way to become a physical therapist!

          Hung Le is currently a graduate student at MGH Institute of Health Professions (Class of 2014) and has his B.S. In Exercise Physiology at UMass Lowell. His goal is to work as a Physical Therapist after graduation. He originally came from Vietnam when he was fifteen and has been in America for 10 years.  He enjoys playing many sports. However, he enjoys playing soccer the most. His plan is to finish his education and stay close to his friends and family in Boston.

High School: Madison Park

College: UMass Lowell

Graduation Year:
2011

Job: Physical Therapy School at MGH

Bottom Line Memory: My counselor Miguel used to come and visit me at my dorm- I remember having to run around and get rid of all my clothes and dishes just so he’d have a place to sit!

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with:
Coffee mugs and lots of candy!

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: Miguel and Bottom Line have supported me to continue my education and I want to give back. I went to UMass Amherst for 1.5 years and decided to transfer-  I wanted to my closer to my family and UMass Lowell had my major-  Miguel supported me through all of it.  I’m participating in the 2012 Rodman Ride for Kids and fundraising for Bottom Line. I enjoy biking, but I haven’t done it a lot.  I’d really like to volunteer at other events.

 People would be surprised to learn that I used to: be very very shy and quiet during high school.  I didn’t think I’d survive in college!

The BEST part of being a college graduate is:  Moving on after college and looking to continue my education.

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is: I have so many responsibilities now.  With my career, for example.  I’ve had to really develop critical thinking and time management skills.  Bottom Line really helped me to be successful throughout the years. 

Support Hung Le and Bottom Line in the Rodman Ride for Kids. Donate to Hung’s page here>>

 Want to share a memory or say hi to Hung Le?  Write a comment on this blog post!

Want to be profiled in next month’s Alumni newsletter and on the blog? Email Jen at JScherck@bottomline.org