College is challenging and it can be overwhelming,” says Oscar Torres. “You really need support to be successful.” A graduate of the Boston Public Schools and a sophomore at UMass Boston, Torres is the first member of his family to go to college. He is receiving the support he needs from his Success Boston coach, Portsha Franklin. “I was a first generation college student too, so I know how challenging it can be, especially applying for financial aid,” says Franklin. A citywide partnership, today Success Boston provides coaches for 2,000 graduates of the Boston Public Schools every year. Franklin works through the West End House Boys and Girls Club, one of the nonprofits providing coaches.
For Torres, Portsha is equal parts big sister, guidance counselor, academic advisor and mentor. “She knows that doing well in science is important to my goal of going to medical school,” says Torres. “I was struggling in chemistry, so she encouraged me to reach out for support. Now I’m in a tutoring program, I have a study group and I get help from a teaching assistant.” Franklin says, “I really think Boston is moving beyond a K-12 approach to education and is making a commitment to helping students through college and beyond.” She adds, “I believe that can be a model for other cities.”
By 2018, close to 70% of jobs in Massachusetts will require a postsecondary degree, but will graduates of the Boston Public Schools be prepared to take those jobs? Since 2009, Success Boston has been making remarkable strides in answering that question with a resounding “yes.” Success Boston partners include the Boston Foundation, Mayor Marty Walsh, the Boston Private Industry Council, the Boston Public Schools and 37 area colleges and universities, led by UMass Boston and Bunker Hill Community College. Boston’s students work with Success Boston coaches to help them get ready, get in and get through college—and connected with a career. Since the initiative was launched, college completion rates have increased from 35% for the class of 2000 to 51.3% for the class of 2009. Ultimately, Success Boston is showing the kind of progress that can be made when a city comes together behind its students.