Thirty Harvard Club volunteers. Sixteen middle schools. Twelve professional and student panelists. One school auditorium. More than 250 students and parents seated at 9:30 on a fogless Saturday morning. What brought them together? The Early College Awareness Program (ECAP), a hallmark event held annually by ten Harvard Clubs around the country.
Keynote speaker Ashanti Branch brought to ECAP '07 members of his Ever Forward Club at San Lorenzo High School. The boys sported Ashanti's Got College? t-shirts, which list on the back the A–G graduation requirements for California high school students.
In San Francisco, we've taken the ECAP mandate—to provide information about the college application and financial aid process to the families of eighth graders who will likely become the first in their family to attend college—to the heights of our abilities. We piloted the program in April 2006 at Aptos Middle School, where thirty-two audience members joined a small group of Harvard Club organizers and a powerhouse team of speakers for a morning-long seminar. A year later, we increased our attendance almost tenfold. We had engaged the help of almost twenty Harvard Club volunteers who regularly attended planning meetings and took on many parts of the organizational puzzle, a handful of dedicated Boys and Girls Club staff members, the office of the Superintendent of Middle Schools for the San Francisco Unified School District, and principals and guidance councilors from schools around the city. The day of the event, an additional ten Harvard Club volunteers joined us for their first interaction with ECAP.
Joined by two keynote speakers who had once been in the same shoes as the students seated in the Everett Middle School auditorium, admissions and financial aid professionals and student speakers from Stanford, Berkeley, and University of San Francisco as well as two local high schools, and representatives of six local non-profits and a charter high school, we packed the morning with information that attendees reported was informative, inspirational, and new to them.
Though the information was weighty, the free breakfast and lunch we provided as well as the raffle in which we handed out gift cards, savings accounts with money already in them, and even a Ronnie Lott signed jersey helped keep the atmosphere positive and enlivened. The energy of the day pushed attendees to ask questions, shape plans, and take the first steps toward an important goal. The Harvard Club volunteers who organized the event saw the rewards of many months of hard work in the faces of parents and shy thank you's from students.
Ray Mertens and Lara Fox co-chaired ECAP '07. They were thrilled that Preston Dodd and Meredith Osborn also took on sizeable chunks of the organizational puzzle. In addition, an impressive number of Harvard Club volunteers turned out for planning meetings and/or the event itself. Many thanks go out to all these volunteers, including Kristin Agatone, Adeline Azrack, Allison Bates, Ben Berkowitz, Anna Brady, Beth Brady, Ayanna Cage, Jennifer Cotter, Sharon Cox, Elizabeth Cryer, Yelitza Dunham, Yan Fang, Kristen Fitzhenry, Kelly Gushue, Holly Hogan, Dmitry Karsh, Bill Lee, Kelci Lucier, Lisa Mazzoni, Charlene Nee, Chris Nicholson, Tamara Samoylova, Sandra Park, Rebecca Smullin, Stephen Watkins, and Ashley Wells.
The 2007 ECAP speakers included keynote speakers Ashanti Branch (Math Teacher, San Lorenzo High School) and Abel Guillén (Vice President, Caldwell Flores Winters, Inc.); academic panelists Teresa Arriaga (Director, Early Academic Outreach Program at UC Berkeley), Richard Cooper (Associate Director of Freshmen Admission, University of San Francisco), and Sarah Moser (Admission Counselor, Stanford University); financial aid panelists Katherine Aquino (Associate Director, San Francisco College Access Center) and Karen Cooper (Director of Financial Aid, Stanford University); and student panelists Rayneisha Booth (University of San Francisco), Rachel Cusing (St. Ignatius College Preparatory), Josue Hernandez (Castlemont High School), Minh-Chi Tran (UC Berkeley) and Joseph Ursic (University of San Francisco).
The goal of the Early College Awareness Program is to encourage middle school students and their parents to consider and plan for a college education. ECAP targets families from communities of limited means, who may not be aware of the options available to them. In many cases, these students will be the first in their family to attend college. ECAP aims to alleviate the challenges of learning the academic requirements and navigating the application and financial aid process that many families face.
As the name Early College Awareness suggests, our goal is to reach students early so they can begin to properly prepare for college during the first year of high school. ECAP aims to be realistic and focused in its scope. The annual program takes the form of a half-day seminar and includes the following segments:
- Academic overview - an introduction to basic academic requirements for attending a four-year college or university
- Financial aid - an overview of the financial resources available to help fund a college education
- Local success stories - a discussion with former SFUSD students who are college students or recent grads about the challenges and opportunities they encountered on their path to college
- Motivational speaker - a presentation from a local business, sports, media, or community member emphasizing the value of a college education
We also introduce families to various community resources (tutoring, mentoring, scholarship, creative writing, extracurricular, etc.) that can help them on their journey to college.
For more information contact Jenny Tsai or Adam Ginsberg at email@example.com