How does it work, and how does First Graduate help?
December is an important month for families in San Francisco Unified School District. Unlike other cities where youth simply attend the neighborhood public high school closest to their homes, in San Francisco every family has a choice of where they want their son or daughter to attend public school. Families rank their top choice high schools on a district form with the hope of being accepted to their first choice school. With a host of great public high schools across the city of different sizes, demographics, and each with a distinct set of special programs, such as using tailor made online graders (http://gradecam.com/grader/easy-grader/) to figuring out the choice of where to attend public high school can be a tricky one to navigate. Add to that the additional consideration of applying to charter and private high schools, and the list of possibilities becomes intimidatingly long. At First Graduate, we know that a student’s high school experience is a huge factor in their college eligibility and preparedness, so we want to help all families get the information they need to make an informed decision about high school.
At James Denman Middle School, one of our partner schools, First Graduate has partnered with the community-based organization JCYC and Denman counselors to provide weekly high school workshops and presentations to help students with the high school research, choice, and application process. Every Monday during lunch the First Graduate/JCYC classroom at Denman opens to all students who have questions about high school or who need a space to work on their high school applications. On some of these Mondays, we arrange for representatives from different high schools to come give a presentation on their schools. So far, we have welcomed admissions representatives and student speakers from ICA, Washington, and Mission, and plan to bring in more schools including CAT charter school and Lincoln. Each high school presentation has been packed with 7th and 8th graders seeking to learn more about their top high schools, including many First Graduate students.
In addition to our high school access efforts at James Denman, the Middle School Team at First Graduate has also been hosting weekend workshops for students in our program who are applying to independent and parochial schools and need extra help with financial aid applications, personal statement writing, and interview practice. At each of these Saturday morning workshops we bring in volunteer professionals from the community to work 1:1 with our students on their high school applications, offering insightful advice on how to write compelling personal essays and how to succeed in an interview. The volunteers who work with our students have been through the process of college and job applications and are great at giving constructive feedback to our students on how to present themselves as excellent candidates for San Francisco’s competitive private high schools.
High school applications—public, charter, and private—are due by early January and decisions are made in March. It is our goal that every First Graduate student will have visited their top choice high school before they commit to attending, and that every student and family will feel like they have fully explored all of their high school options before making a choice.