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Monday, June 23, 2014

‘Diplomas to degrees’ program attracted hundreds of students from around the country to Nashua conference

NASHUA – Nearly 9 out of 10 students in New Hampshire graduate from high school – 86 percent to be exact, according to national statistics.

Although this seems like good news for the state, an achievement gap for low-income students remains substantial. Only 7 out of 10 poor students graduate from high school, according to the 2014 report by
gradnation.org, using 2012 data. ...

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NASHUA – Nearly 9 out of 10 students in New Hampshire graduate from high school – 86 percent to be exact, according to national statistics.

Although this seems like good news for the state, an achievement gap for low-income students remains substantial. Only 7 out of 10 poor students graduate from high school, according to the 2014 report by
gradnation.org, using 2012 data.

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua tries to tackle this gap with year-long college preparation support for teens that includes a new “diplomas to degrees” program.

The majority of children at the Boys & Girls Club – 74 percent – come from low- or extremely low-
income households and are at risk to fall into that achievement gap, said BGC Chief Development Officer Patricia Casey.

“They need to be successful academically to break the cycle of poverty,” Casey said.

The club offers academic support from daily homework help to college essay writing workshops, but the key is a three pronged approach to academic success: good character, good citizenship and healthy lifestyles. Casey said.

“We do the whole package, the formula works,” she said.

College prep programs offered to teenagers are possible through partnerships with local businesses and colleges, such as the NHHEAF Network, Fidelity, Flier Systems, UNH, NCC, Granite State College and Rivier.

“A lot of our kids are first generation students, including me,” said Clubhouse Director Julie Dube. “I attended Boys & Girls Club, they’re the reason I applied to college and knew where I wanted to go...it helped my family understand how that process works.”

UNH associate directors of admission John Larsen and Richard Haynes said they have recently strengthened their outreach with a college prep presentation series.

“We try hard to set up different types of programs. We present on the selection process, we help them see what school’s a good fit for them,” said Larsen, adding that they try to include members’ families as well.

Haynes said they have a mock application review where students learn what it’s like to be admission counselors, which demonstrates what colleges are looking for in applicants.

“This is an ongoing conversation, and ongoing collaboration,” said Larsen. “This fall will be very heavy in completing applications, writing college essays, and picking a campus that’s the right fit.”

The point of the diploma to degrees program is to get students ready to apply to college.

“They’ll do a college search, they’ll pick a college of interest, they’ll research it, fill out the college application, fill out a scholarship application and write a college essay,” Dube said.

Boys & Girls Club of America launched the diploma to degrees program last spring.

“Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide are committed to combating the high school dropout crisis. Our hope is to increase the number of teen Club members, especially from minority ethnic groups, who enroll in a college or university,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of BGCA in a May 2013 statement.

In 2013 in New Hampshire, a diplomas to degrees conference was held in Manchester. In 2014, the conference was hosted at Rivier College after Hashira Rodriguez partnered with Dube.

“We saw that there was a need to talk about what goes on after high school, and what are the options available,” Rodriguez said.

Participation more than doubled in one year, to the point where 270 teens from 20 clubs nation-wide traveled to Rivier this year.

Dube said members at the conference got the college experience.

“They stayed in the dorm rooms, and attended all different kinds of workshops and speaking sessions...It’s a weekend-long thing, so it’s pretty special.”

And next year, they are planning an even bigger conference.

“We had clubs as far as Texas and Missouri attend. They came all the way over to Nashua, New Hampshire just to attend this conference,” Dube said. “It’s really getting into something big.”