Graduation Weekend

Here’s the thing about high school graduation: It’s kind of a big deal, especially if you are the first in your family to make it across that stage. In today’s world, it also means you made it through rounds of standardized tests, maybe participated in extended school days or summer school, and most definitely survived at least the beginning of the tumultuous teenage years. With the plethora of balloons, flowers and family members dressed to impress, it’s hard not to ignore the buzz of excitement surrounding graduation weekend. It’s also hard to overlook the fact that graduation is often the last time high schools have any contact with their alumni.

So this past weekend, as thousands of high school students walked across the stage to receive their high school diploma, a group of us sweated in the hot Houston summer sun. Signups for our summer advising program have slowed in the past few weeks at each of our four school sites and our hardest-to-reach high school still has 0 signups after a month of recruiting (yes, we were getting nervous…). Graduation weekend was the perfect  opportunity to make one final push to recruit students planning on attending community college in the Fall. All we needed were thousands of flyers (in both English and Spanish), a few bottles of water, and some really understanding security guards.

A few thousand cars? No problem!

Lessons learned:

1) Interns truly are the best. The level of excitement and willingness to do whatever it takes was inspirational to see. There was running to cars, there was accidental setting off of car alarms (sorry!!), there was talking to parents and friends who were looking at us funny. I can’t wait for a summer of trial and error with such a “can-do” group.

2) The whole “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” advice doesn’t always make sense, especially as you enter into a privately owned parking area… although using phrases like “it’s for the students” or “we have a partnership with this high school” tend to be your golden ticket out.

3) Turns out, graduation may not be the best time to get signups. Despite it being the pinnacle of the high school experience, despite it being the beginning of the summer and the transition that follows, despite thousands of flyers on cars of prospective BridgeYear students (and several sweaty interns)… we got a grand total of 1 signup this weekend. Sadness.

They say to fail early and fail often, right? Although I’d like to think there will be some spillover effects later in the summer…stay tuned.


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