Graduation season is here and social media timelines are filled with pictures of caps and gowns. For teens and young adults, this can be inspiring -- and also somewhat daunting. Graduation rates in the U.S. continue to rise and are currently at an all-time high of 82%, but college attendance continues to decline, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Our efforts to help kids succeed in school, work and life need to go beyond high school graduation, to helping them enroll in (and finish) college or career training.
In Orlando, FL, the Heart of Florida United Way and its partners are using technology to promote a “college-going culture“ for students whose families might not know how to navigate the path to college. They’re meeting students where they are: phones. Flyers are nice and emails may be informative, but text messaging is the most common form of communication for people under 50, especially for younger people.
United Way’s Going2College Text Project uses automated text messaging to remind high school students (and/or parents and mentors) of tasks that are necessary to go to college. Students receive scholarship and financial aid info, motivational messages, and can even get customized texts based on particular local college deadlines and events.
Given the positive feedback and successful launch of the project in Florida, United Way of Forsyth County in Winston-Salem, NC decided to incorporate the same texting strategy into its community partnership structure. Since 2007, they have helped increase the high school graduation rate in Forsyth County from 71 percent to 84 percent. Now they are taking those successes around high school completion to push for increases in college entrance and graduation.
With the right supports in place and creative approaches, United Ways are doing great work around high school graduation and are helping teens get to the next level. Connect with your local United Way here to find out how mentoring a few hours a month could help more kids in your community get to college.