New Haven's peer mentorship program has helped the public schools increase the number of graduating seniors who go to college and stay there.
The program started in 2010, and was created by Connecticut College Summit, a local non-profit.
Veronica DeLandro, the organization's executive director, said the program is geared to help schools that have limited resources.
“There is a school for every type of student out there, there are over 3,000 colleges and universities across the country, so what we focus on is finding the right fit for those students, versus it being a barrier,” DeLandro said.
As a senior and peer mentor at Hill Regional Career High School, Shayna Blumell helps her classmates with everything from filling out financial aide forms to writing college essays.
“It was an awesome experience for me. I think that it has helped me learn a lot about what it means to be a leader and what I’m going to experience in college,” Blumell said.
The program has helped New Haven increase the percentage of graduating seniors who go to college by eight percent in a single year, said superintendent Garth Harries.
"I think all too many kids kind of go through high school, and they go through the motions, particularly in urban communities where their parents may not have gone to college," Harries said. "We really believe we gotta build a student culture that’s focused on their future, and the peer leaders are a huge part of that."
This year, peer leaders like Blumell taught teachers and counselors how to use newly-developed computer applications that help high schoolers apply to college. The free apps are designed to help low-income students get into college and stay there.
The program is a build off of New Haven's overall commitment to send students to college through New Haven Promise, an initiative sponsored by Yale University.