There is often a stratospheric gap between at-risk students and much-needed resources. Elevate is our recently piloted program with a mission to answer that need; by hosting a program tailored to serve underprivileged high-school students and student athletes, those students become motivated to capitalize on tremendous resources in order to equip themselves for life after high school – whether that be at college, trade school, or in the military. Through Elevate, we offer high-value mentorship opportunities, leadership and life skills development, health and fitness training, and test preparation to ensure students the strongest platform possible from which to spring into their futures.
Because accountability is at the heart of so much of what Elevate seeks to cultivate, evaluation is a significant aspect of what we do, for both ourselves and our students:
a) Our Board of Directors is an important aspect of the organization’s and programs’ evaluations, as they meet regularly (at least bimonthly) to discuss “after-action evaluations” regarding everything from specific a C.H.A.M.P. Camp to a new life-skills presentation at an Elevate session to fundraising efforts.
b) We measure those successes (or address areas that need modification in the future) in several ways. Regarding Elevate specifically, we invest heavily tracking students’ progress throughout the program: we track attendance for every session, note general engagement of students throughout various sessions, administer and report diagnostic ACT exams before and throughout the semesters, and oversee comparative sports performance testing. At the end of each semester, students complete a program evaluation for us, too, so that we get direct feedback from our students about what worked, what we should consider changing, and how to make the program even better and more inclusive in future sessions. In the future, we’d like to create systems for tracking our students’ successes after graduation, as well: who went to college and where? Did they receive any scholarships? Who enlisted in the military? Joined the workforce? What are they doing one year after graduation? Five years? Because we are such a new program (this will only be Elevate’s second year), we don’t have these data yet, but we’re looking forward to the opportunity.
c) Students’ average ACT Composite scores went from 17 to 19 over the duration of Elevate, and at least four Elevate graduates have been accepted into and will be attending college next year!
To ensure the success of this program, we have maintained many of our founding strategic partnerships, as well as forged new invaluable relationships:
• The Princeton Review will continue to provide the materials and diagnostic testing support for the ACT preparation component of the Elevate program. In the 2014-2015 inaugural program, The Princeton Review curriculum hinged on its proprietary ACT Manual that focuses primarily on test-taking strategies. This year, The Princeton Review is providing a second workbook, ACT Early Edge, which focuses on creating a strong academic foundation. This will be the mainstay of the fall semester, and then we will transition to the ACT Manual in the spring semester, thus creating a seamless, year-long curriculum that builds throughout the program.
• Junior Achievement will offer a Personal Finance program through Elevate that focuses on financial literacy and work readiness. Key concepts include earning money; spending money wisely through budgeting; saving and investing money; using credit cautiously; and protecting one’s finances.
• Mosaic Admissions, LLC will offer a series of presentations to Elevate students about the key phases of the college admissions process: strategy, fit, application and essays, and interview. The presentations are designed to complement the ACT preparation component of the Elevate program to offer a better rounded approach to post-secondary education.
• Xplosive LLC will again partner with the Elevate program to provide advanced athletic training for participating student athletes. Several of the local high school athletes with whom Xplosive has worked have gone on to receive collegiate scholarships in various sports, and several of our Elevate graduates who will go on to play their respective sports at the collegiate level cited their work with Xplosive as a particularly beneficial part of the program.
• Social Venture Partners has been consulting with Heart Power board members and staff regarding our organizational structure, roles, and strategic planning for implementing next year’s Elevate program at Aurora Central High School.
Inclusiveness is at the heart of our work, our mission, and our organization. Aurora Central High School, the school in which Elevate operates and continues to grow, boasts a diverse student body: more than 65 percent of students identify as Latino; 16 percent as black; 8 percent as Asian; and 6 percent as white. Seventy-one percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches – a common indicator of poverty in schools. We strive to make sure that our athletic staff, teachers, presenters, and mentors reflect a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures that are representative of the demographics and neighborhoods in which we work.