GPS Summer Update & Self-Care Series

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This has been a busy summer for the GPS team! With high schools around the country switching to remote learning, in-person enrichment going virtual and colleges adjusting their admissions policies, our advisors have been working overtime to stay abreast of the changes in the higher education landscape. Through it all, we have continued to provide our national network of college-bound Navigators with the same reliable and timely counseling that has become a hallmark of the GPS Program.

Our hi-tech, hi-touch approach continues to yield impressive results. We’re still collecting data on the Class of 2020—they haven’t all started school yet— but over 93% of Navigators from the GPS Class of 2019 immediately enrolled in college after high school graduation. To put this in perspective, the overall college enrollment rate for African American students is 37%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The 2019 Navigators’ top three schools were Howard University (21 students), New York University (18 students) and Harvard College (17 students), per National Student Clearinghouse records. These numbers are in line with recent trends: in the last three years, GPS has ushered 186 African American high school students to Ivy League and highly selective universities and 383 students to historically Black colleges and universities.

GPS has always been more than just outstanding counseling: we’re also a community. With so many of our students
learning from home, we saw our platform as a way to combat some of the isolation and anxiety brought on by the pandemic. Over the summer we leveraged our existing digital infrastructure to strengthen the bonds between our far-flung students. Spearheaded by GPS Advising Team members Candace Howze and Liza Rubenoff, our “GPS Self-Care Zoom Series” gave GPS Navigators the opportunity to come together—virtually– in real time.

The first ‘Self-Care’ meeting in June had over 30 GPS Navigators and Advisors participating. The format was open-ended; at first, our Advisors posed questions to the students to kick off the conversation, but the students themselves quickly took the lead, sharing personal stories, anxieties, frustrations and tips on how they have been coping since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The second meeting of the series focused specifically on “Race Relations, Racial Injustice and the Rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement.” The Advising Team led a discussion focused on students’ reactions to and involvement in movements for racial justice and GPS Navigators shared
their perspectives on how they foresee these important issues playing out in the trajectory of America’s battle with racial inequality.

Following the suggestion of a 2021 GPS Navigator, our third meeting was an open mic night. The students shared and performed their own creative work with the group. The Navigators treated each other to musical performances and recited poetry and spoken word; they shared paintings and drawings, many of which addressed the crises facing young people today. For the GPS staff, the talent and creativity of these students was a real high point of
the summer: even as they stunned us with the beauty of their work, their passionate engagement with the issues of the day gave us all hope for a brighter future.

Now, with school getting back in session, GPS turns its attention once again to the college application season. We’ve begun helping our Seniors research schools and draw up college lists, brainstorm and draft application essays and navigate the complexities of financial aid. Our STEM101 program for high-achieving science and math focused students just welcomed nearly two dozen members of the class of 2022 and is beginning to connect these students to the mentors who will help guide them on their educational journeys. And, as always, our Navigators continue to show up, day-in and day-out, for one another, offering each other the care, support and sense of belonging that make GPS such a special program.

Many schools have yet to reopen for in-person instruction, but our community has never been stronger. If you’d like to get involved, please reach out via e-mail to gpsprogram@ronbrown.org.