Last week we welcomed Tarshe Derival to the CCSC staff. As our new alumni coordinator, Ms. Derival will be reaching out to recent CCSC graduates, visiting them at their colleges, and offering support and encouragement to stay in school and earn their degrees. She will also be doing the critical work of gathering data on CCSC’s alums – where they are, how they’re doing, the ways CCSC adequately prepared them as well as the areas in which CCSC must improve to better equip graduates for the challenges they will face.
“There is a lot of discussion these days in education circles about how to increase the rate of college completion nationally. A generation ago, it was all about increasing college access. Now, the focus is shifting, and college completion is increasingly the standard by which both high schools and colleges must measure their success, especially for first-generation college students and students of color. It’s not news to us. We have been supporting our first four graduating classes and systematically tracking the progress of our alumni. Ms. Derival will continue this critical work. We’re always glad to see the issue getting more attention in the media,” says CCSC Head of School Caleb Hurst-Hiller.
Indeed, two national reports released this week both sounded the alarm on stagnating rates of college completion in the U.S. – only four in ten students graduate in six years – and called for greater support and accountability from the higher ed community on this measure.
CCSC already exceeds the national average for college completion – 72% of the Class of 2009 is on track to earn a degree in four years – but, for some students, the school’s ongoing support has made the difference between persevering and dropping out.
By comparison, four years ago the Boston Public Schools set what was then an ambitious goal that 52% of its Class of 2009 would earn a college degree of some kind in six years. While the Boston Globe reported recently that the BPS goal remains within reach, a lot can happen in two years. With several thousand graduates to track, BPS cannot offer its alumni personalized support the way a small school like CCSC can.
“It’s not news to us that getting into college is only the first hurdle many students face, particularly urban minority youth,“ says Vanessa Barrios, CCSC’s director of guidance and counseling. “Having an alumni coordinator on staff is critical to our ability to stay in close touch with our graduates and to help them overcome any obstacles – whether financial, academic or social – that might pull them off the path to graduation. One of the advantages of being such a small school is that we can continue to offer individual attention to our graduates – and Tarshe’s background and experience are ideally suited to the role.”
Ms. Derival says she herself would have welcomed a little more support as she navigated the transition from North Cambridge Catholic High School to UMass Boston. But she forged her own path to success, earning her BA in sociology and women’s studies in 2004, and continuing her studies at Lesley University, where she obtained a master’s in counseling psychology in 2008. Fluent in Haitian Creole, Ms. Derival also works at The Guidance Center in Cambridge, where she counsels both families and children. Prior to that, she was a counselor and advocate at RESPOND in Somerville and at the Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury. While she was in college, she worked as a case manager at the Walnut Street Center in Somerville.
Ms. Derival will be at CCSC on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, getting to know this year’s senior class, and meeting with the school’s college counseling team. Other times she will be communicating with CCSC alumni and visiting them on college campuses across the region. May and June are sure to be busy months, as she plans to attend the graduation ceremonies of as many members of CCSC’s Class of 2009 as she can.