On a recent Thursday morning, more than 100 recent high school graduates sacrificed a morning of their hard-earned summer vacation to equip themselves for the next step — college.
Held on the campus of Palm Beach State College, this year’s Senior Summit — a half-day boot camp of sorts — was nothing new for these students. All of them had spent the past four years in a college readiness program supported by the School District of Palm Beach County, Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. All have been accepted to a college or university. A few of them already have college credits or even associate’s degrees they earned through dual enrollment while still in high school.
But even though these students will continue to receive support services from the program while they are at college, they soon learned there are several steps they need to take on their own to be successful. Here are five of our favorites.
Get involved. During an icebreaker exercise, the students were challenged to get out of their comfort zone and meet people by trying out elaborate (and frequently silly) handshake techniques. The point? The best way to make the most of your college experience is to study hard but also make an effort to reach out to other students. As Resource Teacher Gbolade George put it, “you won’t meet new friends sitting in your dorm room.”
Success is no secret. The primary non-secret that Mr. George addressed was that students need to have a vision. “If you don’t know where you are going, you’re never going to get there.” Students were encouraged to dream big, set goals and then take action. The second non-secret is that success takes hard work and students have the choice of working at their education or not. Mr. George stressed the need for work by noting that “if you don’t pay the price for success [work], you will pay the price for failure.” He encouraged the students to value their time and use it wisely.
Money management is important. The day’s activities included a crash course in budgeting and the different types of financial aid. Take Stock in Children Director of Program Services Marilyn Schiavo encouraged students to look for grants instead of loans, and to be aware that many types of aid require them to keep their grades above a C average. They also received a budget template as part of their College Success Guide to help them keep track of expenses.
Take care of your mental health. In a session titled “Get Your Mind Right,” Jeannie Hoban, a Palm Beach State College counselor and faculty member, talked about why mental health is important and why it matters in college. She encouraged students to find out what resources are available on their campus and to take advantage of them. The most common types of mental illness are anxiety and depression, and people often have co-occurring illnesses, she said. For students who suffer from test anxiety, she said deep breaths are the quickest way students can calm themselves down.
Know what to expect. Take Stock College Retention Specialists Irijah Kanoyton and Ruth Ann Dean introduced the students to the Kuder Career Interests Assessment program. Using individual computers, every student was able to complete a survey that produced not only what career areas are of most interest to each student, but what actual jobs there are in those areas, what those jobs are currently paying, and what college courses need to be taken to prepare for those jobs. They stressed the value of knowing what you want and planning appropriately, as well as the value of really working with guidance counselors and advisors to get on track and stay on track.
Lady Hereford is a program specialist with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. She has spent significant time working in journalism and public relations, and she assists the Foundation’s communications efforts as it expands its impact across sectors. More information about the Johnson Scholarship Foundation can be found at www.jsf.bz.