High schools recognized for helping students gear up for college

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 5, 2013

RESERVE – St. John the Baptist Parish’s two public high schools have been recognized by the National College Access Network for their action plans to help students prepare for college. The National College Access Network pledged $500 to the Explorers Clubs at West St. John High School and East St. John High School during the 2013 Summer Institute in support of Louisiana College Application Week. The award is designated for a school whose training deliverable for the upcoming school year exhibits an exemplary effort toward planning for positive and fruitful partnerships. The two schools are partnering with each other on multiple Louisiana GEAR UP projects this year.
The Explorers Club is the school-level peer-leadership club for the larger LA GEAR UP effort.
“A lot of times if our students are going to college they are going to be first-generation college students,” said Deneisha Adams, ESJH school site coordinator for LA GEAR UP. “We as teachers have been where they’re going, so it’s up to us to talk to the kids about how to get there.”
The school this year has added a mentoring program in which teachers and coaches stay after school two days a week to help students make sure they are doing what they need to in high school to meet the requirements for college admission and to help them complete their applications.
The school has also established a college readiness committee, is planning a college readiness rally and during the first week of October will take students to college fairs and on college tours in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
East St. John High had its LA GEAR UP grant from the state increased by $15,000 this year to $96,000. The increased funding will help the school purchase materials for school projects, fund ACT online preparation help for students and help with Louisiana College Application Week activities, in addition to paying for school tours and the mentoring program.
“We just want to make sure our kids are focused on their future,” Adams said.
Brett Zimmerman, Explorer’s Club sponsor for WSJH, said this year’s activities include college tour field trips, FASFA educational opportunities with families about how to apply for college, new laptops for student use, ACT online prep courses for each student, hosting college week at the school and the PBIS program.
“This is very important to students in St. John because it gives them the opportunity to begin thinking about life after high school, as well as giving them the means to find and explore ways of how to get to the university level, such as how to fund college, or what college is like, and more,” Zimmerman said.
Through LA GEAR UP, students are expected to fill out a profile and research colleges through a website called Louisiana Connect, which allows students to research grants, scholarships and more. LA GEAR UP is open to 11th- and 12th-graders, who do not have to be members of the Explorer’s Club to participate in any of the activities.