Freshmen interested in the College Access Program are invited to attend PEF’s Ninth Grade Experience – an early exposure program intended to awaken college and career aspirations. On December 4, 2019, the theme of the Ninth Grade Experience was Courageous Choices, a day-long experience coordinated with the National Museum of American Jewish History. More than 100 ninth grade CAP students viewed exhibits highlighting the diverse backgrounds and experiences of Jewish people, and took in a one-man show performed by a first-generational African-American college student who survived personal adversity, poverty and gang violence to graduate college and launch a successful performing arts career.
Through Ninth Grade Experience, we help students draw parallels to their own experiences, and think critically about their future and the “courageous choices” they will need to make in the coming years. While it is not often treated as such, freshman year of high school is a critical developmental year for prospective college students. It is the year that sets the tone for the academic program the student will pursue over their next four years in high school. Bad choices made in ninth grade – failing a class, avoiding academic rigor, racking up absences or behavior-based infractions – can limit college prospects.
While we know that freshman year is important, freshmen don’t. Ninth graders are not thinking about college, yet. It is our goal to build more excitement for freshmen, by inviting them to events like the Ninth Grade Experience, to motivate their participation in the College Access Program. We set an expectation of high-levels of engagement throughout not just ninth grade, but all four years of their high school career in order to support them in graduating from high school and pursuing a college education.