High School Bridge

Our College & Career Persistence Team has fourteen years of experience walking with our alumni and their families through the middle-to-high-school transition, and we are expanding these services across Chicago.


The expansion of our College & Career Persistence Program, High School Bridge, helps students living in communities that have experienced systemic disinvestment find and succeed in their best-fit high schools. It is open to all students at selected partner schools beginning in 7th grade and continuing through 10th grade.

CJA Counselors work directly with families as trusted advisors to help them understand high school options and select best-fit schools. We also provide ample on-going support that helps enable students to have a strong academic and social-emotional start to high school.


From 2017-2019, CJA completed a feasibility study examining the post-secondary outcomes of 10,000 Chicago students. We also researched 75 community-based organizations serving students along the journey from elementary school through college.

We found there is a clear gap in support during the transition from elementary to high school for students who:

  • Attend elementary school in communities that are under-resourced and have experienced systemic disinvestment
  • Will be the first in their family to earn a college degree
  • Have GPAs below 3.0 coming out of seventh and eighth grade

Unaddressed, this gap can lead to fewer high school choices, lower high school graduation rates and fewer opportunities for continued education or training post high school.


With 14 years of experience supporting our own alumni during their middle-to-high school transitions, we are well-positioned to accompany more students during this critical time in their educational journey.

High School Bridge begins by supporting students at our partner schools in 7th grade and continues through 10th grade. It is open to all students at selected partner schools regardless of past academic achievement or behavioral history.


During 7th and 8th grade, our counselors work with students and families as they:

  • Research and identify best-fit high schools based on a variety of factors including selectivity, affordability, location and support services offered
  • Prepare and sit for entrance exams
  • Complete enrollment and scholarship applications
  • Evaluate financial aid packages
  • Select a best-fit high school

During 9th and 10th grade, our counselors continue to support students at their chosen high schools including:

  • Assisting students and families in connecting with school counselors
  • Arranging academic interventions when needed
  • Scheduling on-site school visits to troubleshoot and facilitate social-emotional support
  • Facilitating school transfers when necessary
  • Facilitating introductions to counselors and third-party organizations who specialize in the post-high-school transition

Expected Outcomes

Freshman year GPA is nearly twice as predictive of college retention as standardized test scores. By focusing on getting students to enroll in high schools that will meet their academic and social-emotional needs and walking with them in the first two years to facilitate connections to counselors, teachers and peers, we support students in earning grades that will open doors to more potential long-term options.

Expansion Plan

High School Bridge, formerly CP Magis, began in 2018 with a pilot that served three partner schools: St Ann, St. Catherine-St. Lucy and St. Malachy.

In the 2020-2021 school year, we began a partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) to quantify the impact of our intervention and to determine how to best expand our program to serve even more students across Chicago.

Beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, we will add three schools to the program each year until we grow to serve a total of 18 schools and 1,800 students by the 2025-2026 academic year. Schools will include both private and public and will be chosen using two criteria:

  • Neighborhood demographics including median family income and racial make-up
  • School stability including teacher retention rates and overall school stability

For more information about the High School Bridge program, please contact Lauren Fessler, Director of High School Bridge, at fessler@cjacademy.org or see our HSB At-A-Glance brochure.