Corine Forward addresses Eastside College Preparatory’s 2019 graduating class on May 31, 2019, about how to use the lessons learned in high school to thrive in college. Forward, an Eastside 2015 graduate, credits the school’s mentoring program for enabling her to head to Columbia University law school in the fall. College life comes with many do-or-die moments, and Corine Forward vividly remembers a junior-year night of desperation when she felt her future hung in the balance.
Sitting on the floor of a tiny room at her home-stay in Ghana, sweating in 90-degree tropical heat, she was working on an imminently due law school application. Anxious about her words and her fate, the first-generation college student got on the line after midnight with someone familiar: her high school career counselor, Eun-Mee Jeong.
Jeong, that voice of reassurance for Forward, heads a team at Eastside College Preparatory , a Bay Area private school that has pioneered a college and career mentoring program with impressive muscle. Eastside’s focus on its alumni has enabled the school — which does not consider grades or test scores in admission, but seeks out students from low-income families who would be the first in their families to attend college — to succeed where others stumble.
“The college coaching program is by far the most influential part of my Eastside experience,” said Forward, who as a 2015 high school graduate is in the first class to have benefited from four years of the mentoring program.
Nationally, just 11% of first-generation students from low-income families complete college. In contrast, 80% of Eastside graduates earn their bachelor’s degree or are on track to do so, according to the school. Among those who participated in alumni mentoring, 79% were in either professional jobs or graduate school within six months of college graduation. The cost of support for its alumni: $800,000 each year.
As more schools grapple with how to ensure that low-income graduates succeed in college and beyond, Eastside’s experience shows how an intentional, intensive, and long-term investment can pay off — something possible for the intimate, well-funded private school, but mostly out of reach for […]