Yeshiva Students Provide an EDge to the Community
This past December, at a College EDge Mentor Mixer, a high school student shared what he would write for his personal statement when applying to college: “Ever since my dad left when I was eight, everyone said that I would never amount to anything. But now I'm getting my high school credits, graduating, working part-time, and preparing for college."
Whatever academic or economic challenges students may have, College EDge gives them a forum to feel proud of their accomplishments and empowered to achieve their dreams.
Three years ago, Yeshiva University undergraduate Jonah (Yonah) Rubin (YC ‘12), who frequently tutored at the local George Washington High School, came to the realization that students attending this educational institution were largely not targeted by colleges nor adequately informed as to how to apply to, and succeed in, college. He founded College EDge with the goal of aiding underrepresented public high school students in their pursuit of postsecondary education.
In its first year, College EDge hosted its inaugural Seminar and Fair Day as well as a Personal Statement Writing Workshop to help students prepare their college applications. The second Seminar and Fair Day, held last spring, attracted over one hundred and fifty students from eleven public high schools who would otherwise not likely have had the opportunity to meet with representatives from almost thirty colleges in one setting.
Less than two weeks ago, College EDge held its Third Annual Seminar and Fair Day to great success. In attendance were close to two hundred students from sixteen schools and programs, nineteen colleges, US Congressman Charles Rangel, NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat, NYS Assemblymember Gabriella Rosa and NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. The event was comprised of addresses from the Hostos Community College and Columbia University admissions offices, remarks from the elected officials, a variety of workshops, including “Financial Aid” and “Making the Most Out of College” amongst others, and a college fair. Yeshiva University President Richard Joel also stopped by and served as an impromptu College EDge to students during lunch.
Cerlos, a student from Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, told a College EDge Mentor, “I just moved here from the Dominican Republic and don’t know English so well. But events like this make me realize that college isn’t just a dream: it’s going to happen.”
Indeed, College EDge encourages students to pursue higher education and to cultivate professional goals. As Katherine, from George Washington High School, who has been to College EDge events previously, mentioned to a board member, “College EDge helps me decide what I want for the future.”
Since its inception in 2010, College EDge has dramatically increased the scope of its programming in order to achieve those objectives. Last year, the organization began working in conjunction with the New York City Department of Education and instituted a Mentorship Program. This initiative pairs underrepresented high school students with current Yeshiva University undergraduates, who provide them with advice on the college application process and the preparations necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. College EDge has run three such events this past Fall alone, and is also currently in the process of establishing its Intern Placement Program which matches public high school students with Department of Education-funded internships in university settings. Chaim Szachtel (YC ’13), College EDge President, explains that “these events and programs help students discover what careers they might be interested in and help them design a plan to reach their goal. We want students to realize the value of a college education and to help them attain their ambitions in any way we can.” And in fact, feedback from students, high school administrators, and the Department of Education have proven that College EDge is successful in achieving its goals. Tom Pendleton, a Senior Director in the NYC Department of Education, wrote that College EDge gives students “a lifetime gift that will support them [and help them] set and meet positive postsecondary goals.” College EDge CEO Jonah Rubin attributes this success to “our board members who continuously brainstorm and execute more effective programs and events.”
Now in its third year on campus, College EDge is looking to expand its mandate beyond Yeshiva University. The organization is launching an ‘Adopt-a-YABC’ program, in which College EDge chapters will be established at colleges in other boroughs of the city. A former Mentor, Sarah Edinger, now in the NYU School of Nutrition, has spearheaded a new seminar series in conjunction with College EDge, “Rethinking the Lunchbox,” on the importance of nutrition and its relationship to academic performance. These interactive programs educate students about the concrete advantages and disadvantages of their food choices and how making the smart choice, like what to eat for breakfast, can bolster academic success. In addition, Med EDge, a sister organization run by students of Columbia University Medical Center, held its inaugural event in January. Med EDge aims to educate underrepresented public high school students about careers in healthcare requiring minimal post-high school education, certification and training.
So what is the mission of College EDge? As Chaim Szachtel explains, “College EDge doesn't just help underprivileged students get into college. All of our students have had some trouble with school and some of them want to give up. College EDge motivates and inspires these students to know that they can be anything they want to be and provides the resources and support to take the next step in that direction.”
Growing and evolving, College EDge is always seeking the involvement and support of more Yeshiva University students. For more information, please consult the College EDge website: www.collegeedge.us. And for more information about the recent Third Annual Seminar and Fair Day, please see http://www.manhattantimesnews.com/a-double-edge.html and http://blogs.yu.edu/news/2013/03/01/a-double-edge/.
Elianne Neuman (SCW ’16) is currently the Assistant Director of the Mentorship Program for College EDge.