Sheryl giving some advice to a recent alum.

Sheryl giving some advice to a recent alum.

On January 10th, we hosted our annual Go Far Forum at the Westin Copley Place Hotel in downtown Boston. The Go Far Forum is a unique career fair hosted for Bottom Line students which provides an opportunity for students to make meaningful connections with professionals and employers in various career fields. This may have been my first Go Far Forum, but I dare say it was bigger and better than ever. We hosted over 320 Bottom Line students and alumni and 100 volunteers.

I watched the students arrive and become wide-eyed as they realized that this was all for them. I welcomed the seniors that I work with and calmed their nerves as they told me what they were nervous about and who they were excited to meet. Each student was dressed professionally and carried with them a prepared and polished resume and a practiced elevator pitch. When I saw these same students at the end of the night, they had been transformed. Beaming with self-confidence, they eagerly told me all about whom they had met and who took their resume at the career fair. This is the type of confidence that makes a difference in a job interview and helps launch a career. This is exactly the confidence I wanted to see.  I wasn’t the only one who was impressed by our students.

One employer said, “Bottom Line students know what they want and are proactive and determined.” Another volunteer in the round table discussion room told me that he could see our program at work. “My first table was full of freshman and in the next round my table was full of juniors and seniors. I could see their growth. Your program really works. I could see it.”  This feedback was great to hear and affirmed my pride and confidence in the impact that Bottom Line makes.

This year, we welcomed over twenty employers to the career fair, and added three professional organizations. Employers included Boston Children’s Hospital, Draper Laboratory, EMC, Liberty Mutual, State Street, Teach for America, Senator Kerry’s Office, Boston Lawyers Group, and Target, just to name a few. We also welcomed the National Association of Asian American Professionals, the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, and The Partnership, Inc.  Bottom Line has created amazing partnerships and many of our students receive internship and job opportunities from this event.

Each student participated in round table discussions where they received feedback on their resumes from senior human resources professionals and a mock interview with seasoned professionals in multiple fields. Each career field was also represented in a special “Career Conversations” lounge, where students could explore their interests and talk to professionals in each field to learn how they got started and receive advice about how they can follow their path.

The Go Far Forum is an opportunity for our students to realize their potential and to start believing in themselves. The opportunity to receive feedback on mock interviews and resumes from professionals in the field is invaluable. Students who attended the event gained confidence, connections, and a more definite career plan.

– Sheryl Rosenberg, Career Counselor

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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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Last Wednesday, 100 guests joined us at Mechanics Hall in Worcester for our third annual Get In, Graduate, and Go Far Reception. Now in our fourth year of operation in Worcester, Bottom Line has continued to grow and expand: we serve 150 high school students and 165 college students locally. On Wednesday, we were lucky enough to hear the stories of two of those students, Crismel Calderon (a senior at Assumption College) and Fredery Muñoz (a first-year at College of the Holy Cross). Their stories of resilience remind us why we all support Worcester’s youth. Thank you to the Worcester community for helping us guide Crismel, Fredery, and hundreds of other determined students to and through college. Below are videos of Crismel and Fredery’s speeches.

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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.

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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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Greetings from UMass Lowell!

As a brand new target college for Bottom Line, UMass Lowell presents some unique challenges for college counselors. Our inaugural class here is comprised of eleven students, all of whom are first-years. Each student is assigned to one counselor, Rachel Smith, who has very busy days when she visits campus at least once a month.

Bottom Line student Leon Shaw gives a tour of UMass Lowell

Bottom Line student Leon Shaw gives a tour of UMass Lowell

For many of our students, going to college is a huge step and one that is not always easy to take. Our first-year students often require a lot of support and we devote a great deal of our time to making sure that the transition is as smooth as possible. Today we are on campus to make sure all of our students have a study plan for finals and have registered for spring semester classes.

I am on campus today to support Rachel so that we can see all eleven students. I just finished meeting with Jamal Grant who was one of my high school students last year. It was great to see Jamal. He just finished his first ever season of crew and enjoyed himself despite the early wake-ups and cold mornings on the Merrimack River. He is also doing well in classes despite a difficult major: Mechanical Engineering.

Many of our students here are majoring in engineering fields, which means lots of science and math classes. (As a political science graduate, this sounds awful to me!) But our students here are dedicated and doing their best to connect with the academic resources they need to succeed.

Since UMass Lowell was a new school for Bottom Line’s College Success Program, it was important for our staff to learn the campus and develop connections with the various academic and administrative departments so that we can best serve our students. Over the summer, a team of Bottom Line counselors visited UMass Lowell and met with representatives from a variety of offices, including Financial Aid, Health Services, Academic Support Services, and Career Services. The staff members we have met in these offices have proved invaluable over the course of this semester. Countless times, Rachel has given Christine Robbins a call to discuss a student’s financial aid issue or emailed Maureen Souza to help a student find a work-study job. Having people on campus who understand Bottom Line’s program and mission makes our jobs much easier because it allows us to get fast answers to student problems.

We’ll be checking in with our UMass Lowell students again after the semester ends to assess their progress and address any challenges they’re facing. Hopefully we will hear good news about their semester grades!

Check back soon for more updates from the field.

Justin Strasburger
Transition Coordinator

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“Over the past three decades, our nation has witnessed great increases in college-going rates—no doubt due in part to widespread efforts by education policymakers and college access practitioners. Yet despite progress, just over half of students enrolled in four-year institutions graduate within six years (NCES 2009).”

This disparity between college access and college success rates was the motivation for the Pathways to College Network (directed by the Institute for Higher Education Policy) and the National College Access Network to release a “Research to Practice Brief” on how social supports and self-efficacy affect the success of underrepresented student populations. The brief is part of the Pathways to College Network’s effort to promote the need for college retention support services that address both the academic and social needs of college students. To learn more about the college success field, they called on Bottom Line.

Bottom Line believes as the Pathways to College Network does: that students need to be supported as both academic achievers and, well,  as human beings. That’s why our College Success Program model focuses on four areas (academics, employment, financial aid, and emotional wellbeing), not simply academics. As the brief states, “In Bottom Line’s experience, the more confident its students are in their preparation and the more supported the students feel, the more likely they are to succeed in college.”

To learn more about the role of social support and self-efficacy in college retention, read a summary of the brief or the full brief.

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Welcome to Bottom Line’s Blog, Getting Through!

As part of our newly designed website and as a unique place on the vast internet our blog will contribute to the dialogue surrounding the issues of College Access and College Success.

As one of the first community based organizations to make college student retention the focus of our work we are pleased to have this venue to share our thoughts and learnings about what it takes to help students get to and through college.  We expect that in this space, we will hear from our students, program staff and our management team as a way to foster an ongoing dialogue and to share what works in college retention.

Over the last decade and especially in the last couple years the conversation about “Getting Through” college has made it in to the mainstream.  This is a big change from the days when even our biggest supporters didn’t understand why we were spending so much time supporting college students.  However, the dialogue about keeping students in college, has raised some interesting questions that we explore everyday in our work and will share in this space. We anticipate discussing topics including: Which students are most in need of support? Where does the responsibility lie with helping students stay enrolled in college- with the high schools, colleges or somewhere in between? Can college retention support really be done from a community based organization?  What are the stories beneath the surface when students drop out of college?

We hope that you will learn with us as we address those questions and offer a laboratory of what works in college retention.  Again, welcome to our new blog and please return often.

Greg Johnson
Executive Director

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