Four-year grant aids in followup on Telstar grads
Thanks to a new four-year, $10,500-a-year grant from the MELMAC Foundation, Telstar will continue to take classes of students on college visits, and Ted Davis will continue follow-up calls to new high school grads to ask them about their plans.
Those activities are among the components of a nine-year-old effort here to get Telstar High School students to make post-secondary educational plans – and then follow through with them.
MELMAC – the Maine Educational Loan Marketing Corporation – supports initiatives that increase educational opportunities for Maine people, according to its website.
Davis, a former THS principal, was joined at the last SAD 44 School Board meeting by MELMAC executive director Wendy Ault, grantwriter Claire Carver and grant coach Karen Bean in making a presentation on the local program.
The program encourages students to begin thinking about post-high school early, by taking entire classes to visit college campuses each year, beginning in eighth grade. It also emphasizes a smooth transition from middle to high school, supports students in taking the PSAT and SAT college tests by offering a preparatory program, and provides other resources to encourage higher education.
Parents are also brought into the effort.
“The challenge is involving parents,” said Davis. “I think one of the things we have done is try to bring in some parents of students who have graduated to meet with parents of juniors and seniors and talk about things they wish they had known when their student was going through. That’s been successful.”
The program also tracks what makes students abandon their plans during the summer between high school and college, or leave college early. Personal reasons were the most commonly cited. Others included lack of previous college experience in the family, lower educational expectations, and finances.
Students planning to attend a two-year school are also more likely to drop their plans than those headed for a four-year school, Bean said. She said two-year colleges have traditionally served a significant population of older adults, and may not have been in close touch with secondary schools. “They’re learning they need to work more closely with high schools,” she said.
On the phone
With such tracking information in hand, in August of each year Davis calls new THS grads in to see if they still have plans for September. Guidance counselors are available for those who may be encountering problems.
He calls again in October, as well as at the beginning of the second semester in January.
“Many grants only do the October call, but we have learned that Telstar students often finish the first semester but something happens and they might not be going to do the second semester,” said Bean. “We still have an opportunity to follow up with them.”
And, she added, “Ted knows everyone, almost. That has been really advantageous because parents are willing to share what their concern for their child is, and Ted is able to help them get the support they need.”
Ault said beginning this year there will be an increased focus on getting parents to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). She said many have found finances to be an acceptable excuse to use for their child not going to college, “but if you ask them if they’ve filled out the form, they say, ‘no.’ Telstar has done some great work in trying to get more parents to file, but it’s a difficult process.”
Telstar had previously received similar grants, including a multi-year one beginning in 2003, and another in 2011. Ault provided statistics from those years comparing the percentages of THS students intending to attend post-secondary schools to those who actually did.
For the Class of 2004, 92 percent intended to attend, and 76 percent actually did; 2005, 88.8 percent compared to 63.4; 2006, 66.1 percent to 66.2; 2007, 75.8 percent to 66.2; and 2011, 86 percent to 68.8.
For all grantee high schools in 2011, 79.6 percent intended to enroll, while 65.7 did.
The new Telstar grant includes a $4,500-a-year match of in-kind services and materials from SAD 44. Telstar is one of 32 schools receiving new grants this year.