College-bound students, particularly underserved students, often lack a social network to help them adjust to the first months of college.
For the past six years, Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) has organized College Decision Day at the historic Apollo Theater in partnership with 20+ New York City-based college access and success organizations. The event is modeled as a college draft where over 200 graduating high school seniors proudly announce their college choices in front of an audience of cheering families, students, staff, volunteers, and supporters.
We envisioned and supported an effort to leverage the opportunity of having a significant number of low-income and majority first-generation-to-college students in one place. With our support, HEAF organized regional workshops and networking dinners so that students going to the same or nearby schools could network and build relationships after the event—in effect, helping to create “posses” of students from similar backgrounds who will know each other before they arrive on campus, thereby easing the tension of the first months of college for first-generation students. The workshop topics include financial literacy, organization skills, socialization, health and wellness, self-identity and self-awareness, and using failures to produce success. College representatives also attend the dinners so that they can get to know their new students. This concept connects students from up to 20 different organizations with peers who will be attending the same and/or nearby colleges and better prepares them to successfully transition to campus.