Many of us may be familiar with the popular idiom, “a day late and a dollar short” by way of a personal experience. The heart ache from this teachable moment is tinged with a sense of injustice knowing that if you had only acted sooner, an opportunity for reward would not have been missed.

Richard Sugarman, Hartford Promise president, has seen this scenario play out with a particular group of Harford students he calls “Nearlies” — high school seniors who fall just short of meeting the criteria to qualify for a Hartford Promise scholarship. To be eligible, students need a cumulative attendance of 93% or better at a Hartford school; cumulative 3.0 GPA, and continuous Hartford residency from 9th grade.   Witnessing Hartford students nearly miss this mark was a circumstance he was not willing to settle for and why he’s so thankful to the team of cross-sector leaders who have joined the Nearlies action team — one of three teams that drive the work of the All IN! coalition.

Designing the Intervention

The idea for the Nearlies action team was pitched last spring at the ALL IN! coalition’s stakeholder caucus.  Team members would convert Nearlies to Hartford Promise Scholars by identifying needs and providing effective interventions through mentoring, encouragement and support. A long-term goal is creating system change through a shift of expectations and behaviors, like data sharing between Hartford Public Schools and youth serving organizations who can provide additional college prep support and resources; or transparent reporting so parents and students can easily track their academic progress and attendance from year to year.

To help create an effective strategy, Daiana Lambrecht, Achieve Hartford!’s coalition organizer lead, assisted in recruiting diverse stakeholders to lead the work — Trinity College, Governor’s Prevention Partnership, Hartford Public Schools, Teach for America, and the City of Hartford.

Mentoring was identified as a key ingredient to supporting the Nearlies because of its research-backed, positive effects on students.

Building in communication tools and approaches for schools so they can better inform students will also take top priority for the team. Students who are knowledgeable of how close they are to gaining access to scholarships can be all the incentive they need to design their own interventions, like seeking out extra help or prioritizing school over social commitments.

The newly formed team will meet regularly to address key targets they need to hit over the next five months to make sure this intervention is successful.  They’ll also use this inaugural year as a baseline to learn about the other barriers preventing Hartford students from accessing post-secondary options and design the necessary solutions.

There is an opportunity to achieve change through this action-oriented approach. It begins with believing we can do more to improve educational attainment for Hartford kids.  It takes passionate advocates who see themselves in the solution. Are you All IN?

If you’re interested in being a mentor to a Nearlies student or serving on the action team contact Daiana, for more information: [email protected] .