As part of our commitment to equity in education, St. Stephen's Youth Programs (SSYP) invests in programs that help teenagers imagine their future after high school. And so, on Sunday, February 17, eleven teens and four staff people from SSYP set out on their second annual College & Career February Adventure. This trip, which takes place during the winter break from Boston Public Schools, offers teens experiences to think creatively and expansively about their careers and higher education. Over six days, teens visited six college campuses, met with professionals from multiple fields, built relationships with each other, and engaged in enrichment activities from Boston to Washington, D.C.
One goal of SSYP is to ensure that every young person graduates high school. For SSYP seniors the graduation rate is 100%, compared to a graduation rate of 72% in Boston Public Schools. A second goal is for each senior to graduate with a clear and specific post-high school plan. These plans are personalized and look different for every senior. Some plan to attend two-year community colleges, some a four-year public university, some go to private colleges, and some go on to vocational or job-readiness programs. Mentors and staff from SSYP work with seniors to ensure that plans match the academic interests, financial options, and social and emotional needs for each young person. Trips such as this one during February break help teens learn about and experience the various opportunities pathways that exist following high school graduation.
The group started in Western Massachusetts with a visits to Fitchburg State and University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The tours at both campuses were led by SSYP alumni! Lisa and Steve Jenks, two South End residents, graciously hosted the group at their Williamstown house for two nights. The Jenks also brought the group to their own alma mater, Williams College. The stories shared helped spark the imagination of teens as they planned their own next steps.
The group next traveled to Washington D.C., stopping along the way for chocolate at the Hershey Factory in Pennsylvania. A visit to the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History encouraged teens to think about their past while a networking night at the Obama Foundation helped them think about their future. Teens toured Howard University and Georgetown University, out-of-state colleges that many teens previously never thought of as an option. Staff at the Central American Resource Center offered another perspective and a night at the Big Apple Circus was pure fun.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, SSYP teens visited Temple University, ate cheese steaks (of course), and ran up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art while channeling Rocky Balboa. As one teen summed up the trip, "It was six days and thousands of miles. I now have a better vision for my future and am excited about my next steps."
SSYP strives to provide every young person with opportunities such as these. Whether it is the fall senior retreat, the College Access and Career Success trip, or the April Service-Learning trip to North Carolina, SSYP helps participants on their paths towards long-term success. If you want to hear more about this program, or want to get involved, please contact Senior Manager of College Access & Success, Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory at Jeremy@ssypboston.org.
By Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory, Senior Manger of College Access and Success