NEW YORK – What started as a group of high school students who stopped by for pizza and soft drinks at a monthly meeting with mentors from the Big Four accounting firm Ernst & Young has turned into a cohort of polished college-bound seniors.
On Tuesday, 10 students from Adlai Stevenson High School in the Bronx celebrated their achievements at a reception in Manhattan as the first cohort of the College Mentoring for Access and Persistence (MAP) program, a partnership between Ernst & Young and the nonprofit College for Every Student.
“We can talk about No Child Left Behind, we can talk about Race to the Top, but we don’t have a program that’s working—except here with Ernst & Young,” said Rick Dalton, executive director of College for Every Student.
All 10 will be attending college next fall, but only eight have made up their minds about where they’ll be going.
“Before I probably wouldn’t have even thought about college like that. They helped with the SAT prep—they helped with books, which I wouldn’t have bought,” said Anthony Brothers, who now plans to study civil engineering at the New York City College of Technology.
He added that the financial boost that College MAP has given him—paying for college application fees and SAT prep materials—was a huge help.
“I didn’t know where I was going to get the money from for that,” Brothers said.
But it takes a lot more than money to get students from low-income neighborhoods on the college track, said David Sewell, College MAP program manager at Ernst & Young.
“It’s a group mentor program,” he said. “At any given point we have 10 official mentors. That’s why the group mentor program works.”
While the company’s one-on-one mentoring program at high schools offers a more holistic approach, the College MAP program is run by a group of staffers who switch off attending mentoring sessions and focus on getting the kids to college. From college visits, to SAT prep sessions, to working on admissions essays, to filling out federal financial aid forms together, it’s about guiding students through the arduous admissions process.
The first year of the program, when the students were juniors, College MAP met once a month at their school. In the second year, Sewell said they adjusted it to once a week at the Ernst & Young offices in Midtown Manhattan because they weren’t making the progress they wanted to make with the students.
“We realized we needed more time with the kids. We needed more time to get to know them and get inside their heads and figure out, you know, how do we motivate them,” Sewell said.
Dalton of College for Every Student said mentoring is the key ingredient to a successful college prep program. “With college prep if you don’t have a strong mentoring program, then you don’t have anything,” he said.
Now that they see the program is working, Ernst & Young expanded the number of cities in which they are hosting the College MAP program this year from nine to 11. In New York, the program will add on a cohort from A. Philip Randolph High School in Harlem.
While the students in the pilot program were chosen by their high schools, this time around there was an application and interview process for the new students. The company hopes to get more business- and accounting-oriented students involved with the next few cohorts.
“It was a lot of commitment, but I don’t regret any minute of it—seeing the transformation to what they are today,” Sewell said.