Last summer, two recent immigrants who are students in the Hartford Public Library’s English Learner Success program were enrolled in a paid job-training program held in the mornings – at the same time as their library program that prepares them for college. They would have had to drop out of their English classes at the library, but the program director spoke to someone leading the job-training program and they were able to move the students to an afternoon class.

“Without that kind of coordination and collaboration, it would have been a lose-lose,” says Michele Maccarone Brophy, leader of the Next Steps program and a member of the ALL IN! Coalition’s Post-Secondary Support Network. Hartford’s professional network of college counseling and youth development professionals representing more than a dozen nonprofits had been meeting weekly for months, she says, so it was easy to call fellow network member Kim Flint, programs director at the Center for Latino Progress, to discuss the scheduling conflict and request a change. “It became a win-win.”

Throughout the summer, network members were each working to help prepare Hartford Public Schools (HPS) students they serve for their post-secondary future. After schools close in June, guidance counselors are off for the summer, so the nonprofits’ staff support is essential.

Preparing students for college, is “like a maze to get through,” says Brophy, who has worked with this population for decades. “The whole enrollment process, submitting proof of immunizations and the COVID vaccine, proof of vaccination, placement testing, course registration, making sure everything is set up with financial aid, new student orientation, figuring out their schedules –online classes, in-person classes and live-remote classes,” she says, required extensive navigational skills.

Network members shared common challenges and brainstormed solutions. “As a coalition, we did a lot of collaboration and problem solving. It’s a mutual support group,” Brophy says. “It helped me to know, with the challenges my students were facing, we weren’t alone.”

The group focused on helping HPS seniors from the Class of 2021 make the transition to higher education or job training by August 2021 and then switched gears to help members of the Class of 2022 with post-secondary planning. Each of the network members works with a different population, with some overlap of students. For example, some English Learner Success students are Hartford Promise scholars.

“Those scholarships are just invaluable. That’s $5,000 a year that I can’t provide to the students. What I can provide is individualized attention, helping them to follow through with all the details,” she says. “Getting accepted into college is only half the battle.” The Hartford Public Library is committed to reaching out in the community, to collaborations and partnerships, she says. It’s helpful, Brophy says, “to have a seat at the table. We’re grateful to be represented and be part of the coalition and the good work the coalition is achieving collectively.”