News, Scholars Program

College Night 2015

On Wednesday December 16th, FLOC hosted its annual College Night, sponsored by PrepMatters, at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery. Over 50 parents, students, and alumni met to talk and learn about the college experience. The evening began with a college fair where staff, volunteers, and alumni represented their universities by answering questions posed by curious students. Students were also able to collect brochures and swag provided by colleges and universities all over the country. The fair was also a great place for parents to see just how many college options their students have to choose from.

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After the college fair, parents and students were split up into separate workshops designed to teach them about their role in the college process. The students got to listen to a panel of some our postsecondary students, alumni, an admissions representative, and staff. The students heard stories about how the admissions process works, how to pick a major, transferring to a new college or university, and finding financial aid.

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The students were also able to ask the panel questions. One student, Bethlehem asked “Which major do you pick when you have two things you really want to do?” Desiree on the panel answered that you can do both things. For example, if you’re interested in law and music, you can do music law. It’s more about picking a career nowadays and fitting your major to that. Students also had questions for our panel about college life; Joel, an 11th grader asked “what about the parties?” The panel answered that you’ll find what you’re looking for but you pay lots of money to go to college. It’s about making the right choice and balancing your school work with social life. Thanks to our panel, all of our students learned something new.

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In the next room their parents were also receiving new information from a panel of FLOC alumni, volunteers, and staff. The parent workshop was set up to help parents and family members learn how they can help and support their student through the application process, the financial aid process, and college life. In order to help parents understand how important their support is, Scholars program manager Lindsey Barclay explained the application process and the type of questions the applications ask students to answer. Postsecondary Success Coordinator Veronica Marin also explained that all students have a different process based their personalities and what they want in a college. All of this advice was well received by our parents, some of whom are currently going through this process with their high school seniors. So thanks to our panel, parents are more prepared to support their students on the college journey.

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In order to wrap up the night with a big red bow, we raffled off great gifts including gift cards and a DVD. This year’s College Night was a great evening filled with fun and new information. Thank you to all of our postsecondary students who gave up an evening of their winter break to share with our students, all of our volunteers who came out and shared their experiences, and all of our FLOC staff who represented well for their colleges and universities.

sponsors sign college night 2015

(Joh’nita Johnson is a FLOC Fellow with the Scholars Program. She works primarily with 12th graders and Postsecondary Scholars.)

Scholars Program

Scholars Spring Semester Recap

The Scholars Program had an eventful spring filled with exciting workshops and field trips. The sixth grade Scholars participated in workshops about leadership and identity.  Students enthusiastically identified qualities of a good leader and provided examples of leaders in their families and communities. 6th grade Scholars also created an identity box which included a personal timeline, lists of their favorite things along with a poem about their feelings, desires, and goals.

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The 7th grade students learned how healthy eating and physical exercise impact their performance in school and overall wellbeing. To alleviate personal and academic anxieties, students created stress balls. 7th grade Scholars also researched career fields in education and hospitality where they eventually created their own education nonprofit and toured Omni Hotel.

8th grade Scholars participated in Mock Admission activities where they had the 2015-03-23 19.25.16opportunity to design their own colleges. Students reviewed sample applications and decided who to accept waitlist or deny. 8th grade students also explored what it means to have a healthy verse an unhealthy relationship in all aspects of their life: dating, family, friends, and school.

The 9th grade workshops included discussions about positive self-expression with the help of metaphors; navigating life events and “what if” scenarios; building a timeline of their life experiences; and themes concerning police brutality, how to formulate arguments in a debate, and how to navigate various personal preferences that can help narrow students’ postsecondary choices.

10th grade Scholars spent time researching and developing a 10 Year Plan. Students started the project by talking about what it means to be a self-advocate, the importance of knowing your behavioral style, and creating logos and tag lines that represent who we are. Students wrote about graduating high school, what experiences they would like to have in college and what career they would like to aspire to. Additionally, they built a fictional budget based on the salary of their ideal job and learned how to make a paycheck stretch. 2015-03-18 18.38.58

The 11th grade Scholars focused on their college search.  Each student created a list of ten postsecondary institutions they are interested in applying to during their senior year. They familiarized themselves with the application process, and learned how to determine whether an institution would be a good fit for their career goals, academic skills, and personal interests. Scholars also developed an understanding of the purpose of a personal statement and identified the experiences, activities, and accomplishments that make for compelling and one-of-a-kind essays.

12th grade workshops are designed to introduce seniors to key themes that they will encounter in their postsecondary careers and help them transition successfully from high school. One of our Postsecondary Scholars, India Ellsworth, came to present some information to the seniors about her postsecondary experiences at Penn State-Altoona. She shared valuable insight concerning college life, choosing a major, and time management. The following week, students continued their conversation about the differences between time management in high school and their postsecondary institution and discussed how they defined success personally, professionally, educationally, and socially.

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As the school year comes to an end, we are busy planning for our summer workshops, OEC camps, and SYEP students. Here’s to a great year and an ever better summer!

(Kimberly Davis is the College Access Coordinator with FLOC’s Scholars Program.)

News, Scholars Program

Junior Scholars Tour Ten Colleges and Universities over Spring Break

During Spring Break, the 11th Grade Scholars set out on an extensive college tour through Virginia and North Carolina. Visiting 10 schools in total, the students gained exposure to many different kinds of college and universities. They visited the urban campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, the closed campus of the University of Richmond, the historically black Virginia State University, and the large, bustling campuses of North Carolina State University and Virginia Tech. They met up with current Postsecondary Scholars at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Radford University, who were able to give the 11th Grade Scholars a first-hand look into the college experience following life in DC.

Students at VTECH

The tour also took students through the campuses of Greensboro College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Duke University. The Scholars enjoyed seeing college campuses in action—students studying, rushing to class, playing in the quad, and eating in the cafeteria. They were able to take a peek inside dorm rooms, libraries, study halls, and classrooms. They were able to walk through the different campuses, getting a sense of what size student body felt most comfortable to them.

Students with mascot

They were able to enjoy lunches and dinners in conversation with current Joe bdaystudents, learning more about the available student organizations and quality of food!

And perhaps the dinner they most enjoyed was when we surprised Joe, FLOC’s Postsecondary Program Coordinator, with a birthday celebration he won’t soon forget! We only hope he was able to wash that whipped cream off his face . . .

(Ian McPherson is a program instructor with the Scholars Program.)

Scholars Program

College! More Than Just the SAT.

Over the past 4 months, the 11th graders in the Scholars Program have spent an hour and a half of their workshop time in small SAT prep groups. For half of the students, the first six weeks was spent on math while the other reading, and then after winter break, the groups switched to the other subject to better prepare for the SAT test that plays a significant role in the college admissions process. While not the only factor, most colleges see a student’s SAT score as a strong predictor of their post-graduate success. Recent research has shown that SAT scores are not always the best predictor of how gifted a student is academically, but nonetheless it is an integral piece of getting into college.


This past Wednesday, all DC Public School students took their first real SAT test at school. This is a great option, because typically students have had to sign up for off-site College Board testing on the weekends, as private and charter school students still have to do. During program that night we had the opportunity to debrief and discuss how the students who took it felt about the seemingly ominous beast known as the SAT. Having spent the past 4 months studying and learning tips and strategies for success, the students came in with a relative confidence regarding their performance and were able to share their experience with the students who haven’t taken it yet.

I have been working with three students (Berniece, Bianca, and Nick) for the past 6 weeks, and while our time in SAT prep has been fruitful, I’ve been able to get to know them as people far beyond what colleges will see when they look at their SAT score next year. I have been able to share my own experiences in college at Gonzaga and offer them advice about choosing the right school and how to meet students once they get there. I shared that the place where you meet most of your friends in college is in your freshman dorm. During my freshman year, I lived in an intentional living and learning community that focused on leadership and service, and being with a group of freshman who had a similar calling offered a great place to meet like-minded people who chose to live there for a purpose. This is advice I offered to my students and all kids going into college because it is such an important piece of one’s college experience.

Bianca Berneice SATnick SAT

Berniece, Bianca, and Nick all have such an excitement for going to college, and the reality is that taking the SAT is one piece of that. Berniece and Bianca both attend Georgetown Visitation Prep for girls and Nick attends W. Wilson High School in Tenleytown. Berniece and Bianca both have a passion for heading south to a warmer climate for college, but I assured them that the climate should not be the reason you choose a college, as I went from hot Arizona to the wintery cold of Spokane, WA, and have no regrets. Nick, an excellent student, has the potential to really attend the college of his choice, and is interested in staying close to home at George Mason University in Virginia.

For me, going to college was not a question; it was automatically my next step after attending an all boys prep school in Arizona. But many of our students at FLOC will be the first in their families to attend university. They did not grow up hearing their parents’ stories of college-life or see themselves naturally getting through college. While preparing the students with all of the logistical steps needed to complete the college application (resume, teacher recommendations, transcripts, and essays) our biggest goal is to allow each student to realize that they’re up to this and perpetuate a reality that they can succeed in college.


While the SAT test score plays an integral role in the ability for students to get into college, I’ve found that being able to hear about their personal lives and goals has revealed that what students mostly need is passion… to be excited about their futures… to believe in themselves. As students move forward in 11th grade, they will continue to focus on the different pieces of the college application, but most of all they are realizing that college is their future and they have the ability to pursue a school where they can be themselves and find their calling in life.

(Kurt Guenther is the program instructor for 11th Grade Scholars and is serving at FLOC this year as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.)

News, Scholars Program

10th Grade Scholars Make Connections

Each year around this time, FLOC partner College Summit organizes a Career Week, bringing professionals from the community into high school classrooms and after-school workshops to share their journeys through high school, college, and the world of work.  Last Wednesday, as part of this effort, three professionals from Deloitte, Blackboard, and Howard University volunteered an hour of their evening to visit the FLOC Scholars 10th grade workshop.  One by one, the panelists spoke of overcoming challenges in high school in order to get to and succeed in college and career.

One of the panelists instantly scored points with a student when she said she attended Woodrow Wilson High School, where he currently attends.  She spoke of how academic mentors, professional connections, and her personal persistence helped her realize her potential, turn around her grades, and obtain jobs working with students after college.  Her words of wisdom were well-received; she encouraged the students to take advantage of the opportunities that a college access and success program like FLOC provides.

The second panelist caught the attention of the students when she told her story of changing course; she started school wanting to be a doctor, but when she struggled in her chemistry class, she decided to change her major and become a personal trainer instead.  And after graduation she was exposed to work and new experiences abroad and then made her transition into the field of consulting.  She taught the students the importance of adapting but never giving up when our paths get rocky – and they will get rocky.

And last but not least, the third panelist lent her perspective about college life to the students.  Although she emphasized the importance of time management, she also explained how college coursework was more interesting, thus allowing her to grow as a person.  After college, she landed a job at a growing company and, before long, was recognized for her good work and promoted to a management position.  She also demonstrated her love for learning, sharing that she is currently working toward a master’s degree.

After listening attentively, the students jumped at the chance to ask the panelists questions about their future goals and dreams.  After an engaging hour of high school, college, and career talk, it was clear that the work the students had been doing all year was paying off.  The 10th grade students were more eager than ever to get back to work on their “10 Year Plan”, researching and preparing for how their own path might play out over the next decade.

(Jessie Garrett is a Scholars Program Instructor at FLOC).

News, Scholars Program, Staff Perspectives

Middle School Scholars Visit the University of Pennsylvania

Our attentive Middle School Scholars learning about the University of Pennsylvania.
Our attentive Middle School Scholars learning about the University of Pennsylvania.

Early on a bright and sunny October 14th, 25 Middle School students from the FLOC Scholars Program boarded a bus headed for the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn).

Upon their arrival to the ivy-covered Philadelphia campus, the FLOC Scholars were greeted by five college students representing the Greenfield Intercultural Center at UPenn. The college students answered questions and led their visitors on group tours all around the bustling campus. Highlights included the historic Anne & Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library, a glimpse at a dorm room, the oversized button sculpture, and the campus bookstore. Following a few more questions about college life, the FLOC Scholars parted ways with their wonderful UPenn student guides.

According to their appetites worked up by touring the large campus it was then lunchtime. The FLOC Scholars were not disappointed by the extensive lunch options available to them at the heavily anticipated cafeteria. For many, this was a chance to enjoy the company of new and old FLOC friends alike over a slice of fresh pizza or a bowl of ice cream from the memorable sundae bar.

With tummies filled and feet rested, it was off on another venture for the Scholars: a scavenger hunt led by more dynamic UPenn undergraduates. Teams competed to investigate UPenn lore and favorite sites around campus before eventually meeting up at the famous LOVE sculpture.

A group of Middle School Scholars with their student guide at the famous LOVE sculpture
A group of Middle School Scholars with their student guide at the famous LOVE sculpture

The Scholars ended their day back at the Greenfield Intercultural Center, where they asked the last of their well thought-out questions and received commemorative water bottles and bags to remember their exciting day at the University of Pennsylvania! Few eyes were shut on the bus ride home after such a stimulating adventure.

(Lauren Ballinger is a Scholars Program Instructor at FLOC).