At Chicago Jesuit Academy, our relationship with our students does not conclude when we graduate our alumni to their respective college prep high schools. Instead, we remain a trusted advocate as they transition from our college prep middle school to their college prep high schools to college and then to their professional lives.
This strategy flows from our belief that the first and often greatest obstacle to a college degree for students of modest means is a lack of “social capital” to support college readiness. The path to college can be a perilous journey for even the most well resourced families. If almost no one you know has been through college, it’s all the harder to be aware of the benchmarks you need to hit to stay on pace for college. Small hurdles can become insurmountable obstacles when no one knows how to direct you through a FAFSA, ACT/SAT prep or the related jungle of college acronyms.
We therefore strive to give our students the same social capital that a middle class family with college-educated parents would have. To accomplish this goal, we have built a structured set of programs to help students prepare for the high school search and selection process, persist in those best-fit high schools, access affordable post-secondary education and eventually earn their degree.
These programs begin in earnest in 7th grade with a bi-weekly class to help our students understand the complexity of the high school landscape and the options that might be available to them. In 8th grade, our students and their families are assigned a dedicated Program Coordinator to help counsel each family through the application process for schools and scholarship organizations that will best serve them.
Once our students graduate from 8th grade and enter high school, the College-Persistence Team offers programming support through in-person visits, Bridge Workshops, summer jobs, ACT prep and college counseling. Once our alumni enter college, we remain a strong advocate for them as they prepare to earn their degree and enter the professional world. Most importantly, our alumni and their families know that we will continue to walk with them through any challenges or crises that they may face.
Our commitment is simple: As long as our students and alumni are prepared to take one step toward us in pursuit of a college degree, then we are prepared to take two steps toward them.