Despite some delays, the ALL IN! Coalition for College and Career Readiness launched the Post-Secondary Planning Program for the Class of 2022 in early April to help 148 Hartford Public Schools seniors form and implement a plan for their lives after graduation.

Last year’s effort to support the seniors disengaged because of COVID-19 led to HPS staff identifying nearly 350 seniors for post-secondary support in the spring. With so many of those students hunkered down at home during the pandemic, the program quickly turned into a city-wide street outreach effort that lasted for months before students could be supported by workshops and planning. Ultimately, 93 seniors who otherwise would not have had a post-secondary plan were helped toward college, trade programs, the military or other career pathway programs that started in the summer, fall, or in some cases, winter.

This year’s goal, once again, is simple: ensure these seniors develop viable plans for a post-secondary career pathway and get all the way to placement. The task, however, is quite difficult, says Paul Diego Holzer, Achieve Hartford executive director and strategic leader of the program. It all starts with building trust in a short amount of time, he says, followed by in-depth planning discussions informed by exposure to real options. And, as we learned last year, support must continue all summer to ensure students land in a career pathway by September.

Thanks to the hard work of HPS guidance counselors and staff, there are far fewer students this year without a post-secondary plan, but still enough to warrant a second year of ALL IN! Coalition support.  Counselors from six high schools identified 148 students on track to graduate but without plans for college or a career with a future after high school.

ReadyCT staff manages the project, and staff from Blue Hills Civic Association, Center for Latino Progress and ReadyCT work with students to provide mentoring, planning and skill-building services through June. These began with weekly one-on-one or small-group meetings between seniors and agency staff members to build trust. Agency and college partners are introducing the seniors to post-secondary options through workshops and detailed plans to help seniors chart their post-secondary pathway.

Also, through June, students will be offered small-group workshops to build work-related skills. From July to September, caring adults will continue to connect weekly with recent graduates through phone calls, texts and/or in-person meetings; students will be placed in productive summer programs and given assistance to overcome barriers to their chosen career pathway so they can start by September.

The ALL IN! Coalition funders have stepped up to support the $159,000 budget, which includes incentives up to $250 for each participating senior.