Seniors at Midland Trail High School who attended a four-day workshop last summer to learn about the college application process and financial aid — called peer leaders — have been planning activities for the freshmen this school year to teach them about college.
Earlier this month, the peer leaders guided freshmen through the ‘Tower of Power,’ a dynamic activity which explains the different types of financial aid and teaches self-advocacy. Peer leader Lydia Bailess said, “I want to make everybody know about college and tell everyone about how they should be going to college.”
“Peer leaders are the foot soldiers fostering college-going cultures in their high schools,” said Jon Charles, executive director of College Summit.
The peer leaders began planning financial aid awareness activities for the freshmen more than a month ago and often serve as teachers’ aides in the freshmen classes to help with the College Summit lessons.
Kim Walls, an educator and ninth-grade College Summit advisor at Midland Trail, said, “I really see the benefit of the ninth-graders exploring careers and beginning to think about college. The freshmen have been able to find out what the requirements are for specific careers and how much they can earn if they pursue that career. It really gets them interested in what they can do after graduation.”
“I feel privileged to help Trail students, especially the freshmen,” said peer leader Ericka Hinte. “I want to help them understand that they can do anything that they put their minds to.”
Another peer leader, Chris Johnson, said, “I feel like it’s a reflection of me in the past. I feel like we are helping to build a better generation.”
Nikki Kinder, an alumna of the College Summit program and a student at Marshall University, helped out with the peer leaders last week. “It amazes me how receptive and thankful ninth-grade students are to learn about the process of applying to college,“ she said. “It is a wonderful thing that they are helping to prepare the students earlier, ensuring that they will be ready to apply and get accepted to the post-secondary program of their dreams.”
College Summit is a national nonprofit organization that helps high schools raise their college enrollment rates by providing all students with a course in post-secondary planning, training teachers and counselors to build college-ready culture, equipping the most influential students in the school to help their peers apply to college, and helping school leaders utilize data to manage the school-wide post-secondary planning and college enrollment process.
The local College Summit region serves more than 8,500 students in 11 counties in West Virginia and one school district in Pennsylvania. Nationally, College Summit works with 170 high schools in 12 states through partnerships with school districts.