Encouraging Students To “Think Forward” and Building Stronger High School Applications

A lot of work goes into the role of a DCI advocate, as they endure so much on a day-to-day basis. However, they still find time to develop programs and initiatives to support families, children, and youth on a deeper level and with a welcoming smile.

DCI’s team of Family and Youth Advocates support East Durham families, children, and youth from academic and social-emotional standpoints, from birth to college or career. Engagement with Family and Youth Advocates can include home visits, one-on-one meetings with students, needs assessments and screenings, referrals to services and DCI partners, and parent education workshops.

The workshop topics range from navigating school options to a series on resilient parenting. These workshops were built to encourage and help families understand the educational system, and the options that they have for their children to continue to their education. Beyond building relationships with parents, caregivers, and youth, the EDCI Family and Youth Advocate programs have driven significant results, including increasing school readiness and attendance, and facilitating community connections.

On January 18, 2020, our team of advocates helped students connected to DCI by holding personal sessions to enhance their chances of getting into lottery-based high schools in Durham, North Carolina. The schools that are lottery-based are very competitive, but they give families an opportunity to choose the school experience that best fits their needs and—like every other public school—are tuition-free for any student to attend. Typically, a lottery-based school will hold an enrollment period when parents can register their children online or in-person. If there is enough room for every interested student, the school does not need to hold a lottery. However, if a lottery is necessary, the school will begin its random drawing process, either handling the applications manually, or using a computer program.

Participating students from Maureen Joy Charter School, Neal Magnet Middle School and KIPP Durham College Prep School were able to drop in from 10am until noon on three consecutive Saturdays to work on application questions and essays. Some of the programs that the students applied to were: the City of Medicine Academy, Hillside New Tech, J.D. Clement Early College and Early College at North Carolina Central University.

“These kids are really smart and I enjoy the fact that I can help them think forward into their future,” Katherin Castillo, our bilingual youth advocate, explains. “I have a personal goal to help more kids every year, but either way it feels good as some of these kids are the first to even make it to high school from their family.”

This is the first year that DCI’s Family and Youth Advocates have implemented this program, but it is the second year they have worked with students on their essays. The essays and applications were due January 31, 2020. The students will hear back in early March in regards to their acceptance. As of March 6, 2020, four of the students that our team of Family and Youth Advocates worked with have been accepted into the school of their choice.