How the NYC Program Fights “Summer Melt” One Student at a Time

Moe Sanders is the first Bronx family to graduate from college.

Skidmore College’s up-and-coming senior initially planned to pursue a publishing career, but now she is preparing to become a college counselor.

She helped other first-generation college students like her, inspired by those who helped her in the Summer Bridge program hosted by Urban Assembly, a non-profit organization that runs a network of public schools in New York City. I would like to.

Under the Urban Assembly Summerbridge program, recent high school graduates are coached on their transition to college or other career-oriented paths after graduation. The coach is a recent graduate who attended the same high school just a few years ago.

research This peer-to-peer model is highly effective and is offered by many organizations in New York City, a school district where more than 70% of students come from low-income families.

For many low-income first-generation college students, the summer before their first grade is nervous. Between endless paperwork and financial assistance decisions, some students never enroll.

This is a phenomenon called “summer melt,” which means that high school graduates apply, are accepted, and go on to college, but never go to campus in the fall. These students will attend, but something will happen in the summer and they will “melt”.

The number of New York City students affected by the summer melt is unknown, research It shows that up to 40% of low-income students nationwide who plan to go to college each year do not go to school in the fall.

Bridge programs can make a difference

Moe Sanders is a freshman at Skidmore College.

As a black girl attending high school in one of New York City’s poorest areas, Sanders felt the odds piled up against her. Sanders turned to coach support when she headed to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, after she graduated from the Bronx Academy of Letters at Urban Assembly High School.

Sanders benefited from the coach and wanted to pay it in advance. In the summer of the year following her first grade, she became her own coach and began supporting young students.

“At that time, I started a job that I called a mini-college counselor,” Sanders said.

And she hasn’t stopped. This is her third summer as a coach.

Urban Assembly is one of many bridging programs that try to prevent New York City students from “melting.” 90% of their graduates are black and Latin, and 86% are from low-income families. Only 12% of the participants in the summer bridge “melt”.

Founded in 2008, the program hires coaches from recent graduates and works 20 hours a week for 13 weeks during the summer. While teaching recent graduates, they also receive training, mentorship and professional development on topics such as financial literacy and time management. They practice leadership skills while modeling life after graduating from high school.

Stephanie Fiorelli, director of the Successful Alumni Group, said he would hire one alumni per high school to teach advanced classes from May to August. “”They are a kind of near-peer mentor and start where the coaching counselor interrupts. ”

This program allows recent graduates to make their own decisions. “Much of what we do with this bridge program has helped students feel that they have control over the choices they make,” says Fiorelli. “Often, students feel they couldn’t make their own decisions, so they go beyond college and vocational training programs, so coaches learn how to give them all the options.”

Many of the transition steps take place in the summer, which can be an overwhelming time for many of our recent graduates.

Jay Champagne, Deputy Director of Success for Alumni, said many students, especially those with poor family relationships with money, struggle with the financial aid process.

Coaches sometimes call financial aid officers to defend recent graduates, Champagne said. “If you’re 18 or 19 years old and trying to understand financial assistance, that’s very scary.”

Alumni success coordinator Angelina Lorenzo said it would be even more complicated if students were chosen to undergo additional verification from the university. Confirmation requires the student to submit additional documents to prove the student’s financial position. “They say that financial aid verification is randomly selected, but 99% of students will be flagged for verification.”

Lorenzo, an urban assembly graduate and former bridge coach, said he witnessed a student seeking proof that his parents had food stamps or a birth certificate for his siblings. And coaches are trained to support students in such situations.

However, the role of a coach is not just to support students attending college. They can also help those who are directly transitioning to the workforce.

Jade Hooker, a recent graduate of the City Council of Mathematics and Sciences for Young Women, has joined the US Air Force. She wants to work on an airplane, and soon she will begin training in aircraft maintenance. Before that, she is enjoying the summer and preparing for the future.

“”[Having a coach is] It’s useful because it’s basically the support system you need. And they can provide you with resources and contact you with other people who are thinking of doing the same thing you want to do, “Hooker said.

Year-round bridge

The Urban Assembly Bridge program focuses on graduates of Urban Assembly High School, while other nonprofits offer bridge training to various public schools. One of them is provided by College Access: Research & Action (CARA).

Founded in 2011, CARA trains coaches to work with students using alumni models. Their program lasts all year round. That is, coaches start working with students at the beginning of their high school year.

CARA coaches work 10 hours a week, all year round. They work in school buildings and hold workshops with their cohort on topics ranging from the pervasive financial support of self-doubt experienced by many first-generation college students to fraudster syndrome.

Deneysis Laborada, director of the Bridge Program, said the coach also helped first-generation parents better understand the college process.

“Students aren’t the only ones who don’t know how to apply to college. The majority of families come from other countries where applications and college systems are very different from the United States,” she said. “They don’t know what it means to apply for college, apply for financial assistance, and all the scholarship opportunities New York offers.”

Labrada also said that the majority of high schools in New York City do not have counselors dedicated to college and careers. Rather, in addition to university counseling, there is one coaching counselor responsible for student mental health, schedules, and registration.

“For a school with one coaching counselor, having a bridge coach is a complete extra to focus on college and career,” says Labrada.

In addition, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many universities have moved their admissions and financial assistance offices to remote systems, Labrada said. Many CARA bridge students have a hard time contacting police officers, saying they often don’t answer the phone or on vacation.

“Some universities don’t always support structured freshmen as they used to. Today, many graduated seniors are dissatisfied with the lack of answers,” Labrada said. Stated. “Our coaches are coming in and trying to fill that gap, and we’re trying to support as much as we can.”

Bridge coach develops leadership skills

A young woman with long black and blonde braided hair poses for a portrait in the classroom.

Nyeisha Mallett is the next senior at the Cooper Union School of Art.

Courtesy of Nyeisha Mallett

CARA coach Nyeisha Mallett is the next senior at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York City. She attended Medger Evers High School in Crown Heights, but she didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the Bridge Program.

She learned about coaching status through her cousin and participated in the program when she was in her first year of college. She is currently finishing her third run as her coach.

“”[This job] It wasn’t what I was trying to do, but it was definitely important. And I like to do important things, “she said. “If I’m going to do something, I want to make sure that the time I’m spending is important to someone else.”

According to Mallet, her job does more than just help students with paperwork. Her role involves encouraging them to be informed as much as possible about the decisions they are making. One example of her frequent occurrence among students is understanding the culture shock of going from high school, which is primarily of color, to predominantly white educational institutions, or what is called PWI.

“We talk a lot about PWI. I go to PWI, but it’s still difficult to navigate. For color students who may have a hard time understanding the transition, have those conversations with them. It’s important to do, “she said.

“There are times when students come to me and they like it.” What is your experience like? And I’m real about it. I attended an all-black Caribbean school. So it was a big shock to me that I was still navigating, “she said. “I tell them my experience of being the only black man in my class. I want to make sure they are aware that it can happen.”

If Mallet was now a senior in high school, she could have applied to the city’s Ministry of Education. Bridge program.. This year, they saidNext step textIn the program, graduate coaches support recent graduates through text messages. Any public school student can participate.

The Bridge Program not only helps high school graduates transition to life after graduation, but also provides young adults with work opportunities that enable them to explore their careers in the field of education.

Skidmore’s up-and-coming senior, Sanders, fell in love with supporting other students from the same background as her to succeed after graduating from high school.

She said she loves working with students who want to make a big leap to improve themselves through education.

“I see how important this job is, especially as a black woman from a low-income area. People don’t believe us. Even being in. [predominantly white institutions], People still don’t think black students or color students can do that, “she said. “Being part of that process for other students is a kind of magic.”

Marcela Rodrigues-Sherley is a reporting intern at Chalkbeat New York. Contact Marcela at

How the NYC Program Fights “Summer Melt” One Student at a Time

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