One of the most valuable and effective assets in the quest to get high school students more engaged in their postsecondary pursuits is sitting right next to them in class or at the cafeteria.

“The most influential person to a 17 year old is another 17 year old,” said Raquel Figueroa, co-program director of College Summit. For more than 20 years, the national nonprofit organization has worked to narrow the college enrollment gap by teaming with high schools throughout the United States to provide courses, curricula and training designed to guide low-income students through postsecondary planning.In recent years, College Summit and its 100 partner schools in 10 states have focused on developing peer leadership, launching its PeerForward campaign in 2015. The program is estimated to benefit 1.8 million students from 1,000 schools throughout the next decade. Figueroa said part of the training for PeerForward participants includes spending several nights at a college campus and going through the college application process themselves.

“We have three goals for the campaign,” Figueroa said. “For every senior in high school to complete three or more college applications; to have every senior complete FAFSA early; and to connect every 9th-11th grader with some sort of career or college aspiration.”

Figueroa and co-program director Gary Linnen are slated to lead a session titled “Tao of Peer Leadership: Unleashing the Greatness of Peer Influence to Drive College Attainment” during the 2017 Florida College Access and Success Summit on May 10-11. The session, in part, will cover independent research that reveals that the best predictor of four-year college enrollment for low-income minority students is whether they have friends who plan on going to college themselves.

For more information about the Florida College Access and Success Summit, click here.


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