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Omaha’s student recruitment efforts for the 2022–23 school year

Aminatu Issaka

This is a message from Aminatu Issaka, College Possible Omaha’s director of college access.

Over the course of our AmeriCorps members’ service year, our college access coaches have worked hard on recruiting high school junior students to our program. The recruitment season never truly closes, but with the beginning of our junior year curriculum in January, we wanted to share the initiatives and changes we have implemented since August.

This year, we altered our high school programming by switching the coach positions we’ve had in the past. We used to have a junior coach who focused solely on recruiting students into the program and delivering programming to high school juniors, and a senior coach who served seniors in the program. Due to the challenges we’ve faced in finding AmeriCorps coaches to fill all the roles we have, we combined the two roles into one. Having the access coach position ensures we have a coach at each of our nine partner high schools serving students.

While we made changes to the curriculum to ensure they can manage their service, these coaches are working hard. They are resilient, creative, and talented. They are serving students in their senior program and have also been recruiting junior and senior students at their respective schools. To ensure we are getting students into the application pool, each coach has a goal of having five new students apply each week. It’s working: our pool of applicants has increased from 40 students to 100 in just three months.

Recruiting young people to any program looks a lot different today than it did just five years ago. Students across the country are experiencing burnout in a post-remote-learning environment. As teachers and professors have reported, “Fewer students are showing up to class and turning work in on time (or at all).” As a non-mandatory after-school program, we’ve had difficulty encouraging students to invest in their future by joining College Possible.

Our goal for this year has been to really meet students where they are. We’ve made QR codes that are on lunch tables at schools and created handouts for parents with facts about our program. We are striving to be creative and innovative in our outreach to students and families.

Our access coaches have done a lot of outreach by tabling at events hosted by their schools. One of our access coaches, Dorothy, who is also a College Possible graduate, created Recruitment Jenga. The recruitment effort is based on the popular game in which players pull out a block from a block tower. Each block has a question related to college access, and the student must answer the question before earning a small prize. We used the game to attract students to the table, teach them more about college access, and spark interest in our program. It was a hit! Students were lined up to read a question and learn more about us.

Finding innovative ways to meet students where they are has really benefited our recruitment process. Students need to become aware of the long-term benefits of our program before they buy into their education journey. With the increase of applications we’ve seen in a short period of time, I am confident we will be able to continue impacting students as they start their journey to earn a college degree.

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