Class of 2022 Program Boosts Prospects

For the Class of 2022 graduates who participated in the spring and summer intervention designed to help those without post-secondary plans land somewhere by this September, their options expanded. The Hartford Public Schools identified 202 students in need of guidance, and community partners engaged 80 seniors, about 40%. Final data won’t be available until the program ends in late September, but qualitative results are in.

Community partners Blue Hills Civic Association, Center for Latino Progress and ReadyCT work with students facing multiple challenges, including poverty and pandemic-related trauma.

Students who never saw beyond their next paycheck have learned about 401(k)s. One student who had never had a paying job because of caring for younger siblings got a paid internship at The Village for Families & Children working with children and recently interviewed for a childcare job. She plans to attend community college to begin a nursing program.

Another student served had missed so much school she risked not graduating. Our community partner, ReadyCT’s Darlene Schubert, gained her mother’s trust, partly by speaking Spanish. The mother set up the first Zoom meeting with Schubert and her daughter. Over time, Schubert formed a bond with the girl and slowly persuaded her to return to school, sitting with her in class to ease the transition. While she does not yet have a job or internship, she has expressed an interest in reading; Schubert is guiding her to get an internship at a public library and later, a job in a book store.

Like all partner organization staff, Schubert works to build a relationship with each student first, so trust can grow. “We all just want to feel connected to someone,” she says. “I go into this knowing that those relationships are what make us thrive.” She keeps in mind the trauma these students have lived through because of the pandemic the past two and a half years, stepping slowly and carefully. “These COVID students are just a whole different breed – the motivation, the autonomy, the self-efficacy – are delayed,” Schubert says.

One student was so happy with the program he talked six friends into joining. The program paid for him to take a Google certification test so he could obtain an internship with an IT company. The IT company saw his intelligence and work-ethic and offered him a full-time job.

Another student, whose earnings helped pay for his family’s groceries and rent, said he had only been focused on working a job and never considered a career with growth potential and benefits such as health insurance, paid time off and retirement funds; he is now on a path to join a labor union, thanks to skills and certifications he received through the Class of 2022 project. Several students are striving to attend college, with a few completing college summer courses.

The students felt the outreach staffs’ commitment to them. When the students graduated from their respective high schools, outreach workers were there to cheer for them. And thanks to funders’ generosity, 48 students attended a celebratory event to see the Hartford Yard Goats, further building social connections and community.