YES Prep’s IMPACT Program is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The IMPACT Program matches eligible YES Prep juniors and seniors with highly-selective, supportive colleges and universities. IMPACT partners agree to attend a summer institute to build relationships with students and their parents and to provide information about the college application process. Partners also agree to meet the financial need of YES Prep students accepted as IMPACT scholars. Since the program’s inception, the list of participating institutions has grown to 28 partners and 7 affiliates.
The program began in 2006 as a way to boost college persistence for YES Prep graduates. The fact that over 90% of YES Prep’s graduating seniors are first-generation college bound introduces a unique set of challenges for these students as they enter college. A strong emotional and academic support system at the college level, as well as the availability of financial aid, powerfully influences the likelihood of persistence. Currently, YES Prep juniors and seniors that have a 3.0 GPA and a 1070 on SAT or 24 on ACT are eligible. If students do not meet the test requirements, they are still eligible if they have a 3.4 GPA, since there are now many colleges and universities that do not require standardized tests.
The IMPACT program also aims to send students in groups, or cohorts, to the colleges and universities. “We believe that, if we’re going to send students away from home, they’ll be more successful in cohorts, so they have the common bond of the YES Prep experience. Often, these institutions are predominantly white and have students from a wealthier socioeconomic background. In cohorts, the older students can mentor the younger and help them navigate the culture of the school,” said Chad Spurgeon, YES Prep’s former Senior Director of College Initiatives.
Amanda Kisselle is the Executive Director of Admission at Austin College. She first started recruiting for Austin College in the Houston area in 2005 and was eager to partner with YES Prep through IMPACT. “We consistently have about 20 YES Prep students on our campus in a given year,” she said. “In most cases, I’ve known them since their junior year of high school, so I hope they feel that they can come to me with whatever issues they’re having. I can’t solve everything, but I can certainly connect them to the right people.” Kisselle hosts a back-to-school dinner at her house every year. “Our older students do a good job of bringing new students into the fold,” she said.
IMPACT scholar and Austin College junior, Mariana Tonche, agrees that having an admissions representative that she knew on campus made college less scary. “You knew there was an advocate for you,” she said. “Someone who would be a resource and help you manage the transition.”
“With IMPACT, you knew there was an advocate for you. Someone who would be a resource and help you manage the transition.”
Over time, the IMPACT program has evolved to more formally support IMPACT scholars once they are in college. “We’ve learned to fit into the model the schools have and find the person whose job it is to focus on kids like ours,” Spurgeon said. “So for example, we might find someone in a student support department who can meet with our students one-on-one and host IMPACT social events.” That’s where administrators like Ketwana Schoos, Assistant Dean of Student Life for Inclusive Campus Engagement at Washington & Jefferson, come in. Schoos’ department can make sure IMPACT scholars have a Thanksgiving meal if they are unable to travel home or they can help them get a coat if they are unprepared for the winter. “We can connect a student to the Dean or an advisor and help meet students where they are,” Schoos said. “This year, we want to hire some of the upperclassmen to serve more formally as mentors. They’ll have biweekly check-ins with the new students and one-on-one mentoring to help throughout the first semester.”
IMPACT scholar Darious Singleton decided to attend Washington & Jefferson because of these support systems. “The Washington & Jefferson admissions representative talked to us about the financial and psychological support systems for YES Prep students. I knew that I’d need those, being so far away from home,” he said.
Not only do the students benefit from the partnership, the institutions do as well. According to Schoos, Washington & Jefferson has a predominately white population, with 14% identifying as multicultural. “We benefit from diversity,” Schoos said. “Regional diversity. Diversity of lived experience. Racial and ethnic background. It enriches our students’ experience.” Kisselle agrees: “Our students, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious background are going to interact with people different from them throughout their lives. YES Prep students come here having great educational experiences. The college and their peers benefit from their perspectives.”
“Our students, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious background are going to interact with people different from them throughout their lives. YES Prep students come here having great educational experiences. The college and their peers benefit from their perspectives.”