What differentiates DTS from other college access and success programs is the year-round holistic support and resources that students receive beginning in 9th grade through college graduation. When the wellness of the whole child is considered and supported, including his background, culture and personal circumstances and experiences, we are able to achieve 100% high school graduation, 100% college matriculation, and 100% college graduation.
Our program is based on 5 interconnected touchpoints that build upon one another:
1. Health and Wellness
A strong foundation of personal physical and mental health is vital to maintain academic achievement levels and hone the executive functioning skills necessary to succeed in college and in life. Implemented and overseen by our full-time Health and Wellness Director, DTS Health and Wellness education and practice begins the summer before ninth grade in the areas of fitness, stillness, nutrition, self-care, hygiene, body awareness, sex education, psychological exploration, and mental wellbeing. Our Health and Wellness Director provides individual mental health counseling to all DTS students. By consistently addressing stress, anxiety, family trauma and other threats to life success, we erase the stigma of therapy and eliminate the wait time to see a practitioner.
2. Academic Achievement
Our rigorous academic curriculum begins the summer before ninth grade during our Bridge to High School program. We remediate academic deficits and then continue to meet students at their respective academic levels throughout the next four years. We emphasize literacy and mathematics, and we focus heavily on cultivating strong study skills. Metacognition, time management, organization, test anxiety, study environment, note taking, test preparation, active reading, and lifestyle improvement are addressed on a regular basis. Mandatory after-school Advisor-led study sessions are held daily in the DTS classroom at Hamilton High School, during which students have a thoughtfully-chosen, nutritious snack, check in with their Advisor, do homework, and meet with our Math, Science and Testing Specialist. DTS also provides a robust mandatory summer curriculum, in order to combat summer learning loss and further enrich our college-going culture.
DTS provides a safe, nurturing place for students to practice addressing academic obstacles, make decisions, communicate effectively, and ask for help when needed. Our students discover that they have the tenacity to achieve their academic goals and the ability to tap their internal resources to approach the external world in a healthy and productive manner. The result is healthy, competent, confident scholars who are able to succeed in college and create fulfilling lives for themselves.
3. College Preparation and Completion
From day one, our students inhabit a College-Going Culture, in which course selection, extracurricular activities, time management, and myriad other facets of high school life are acknowledged as steps on the path to college. DTS students at every level have consistent opportunities to interact with, and learn from, one another. DTS provides individual college counseling, SAT/ACT test preparation, individual college application and financial aid application assistance, a two-week summer College Application Boot Camp, local college campus visits, fly outs to non-local campuses, and visits from college admissions representatives. Our full-time College Access and Success Counselor meets with all students on a one-on-one basis beginning in ninth grade and continuing throughout high school on a graduating scale. She monitors students’ course selection, grades and study plans, and helps place students in their best-fit schools, where they will receive adequate financial aid and appropriate academic and social support.
DTS continues its support throughout college to ensure persistence. Staff members conduct weekly one-on-one phone check-ins, identify local support systems on each campus, and schedules in-person meetings and group outings during semester breaks.
4. Family Engagement
Nearly all DTS students will be the first in their families to attend college, and most are members of immigrant families in which college preparation and the college experience itself feel foreign. Students perform better academically and acclimate more comfortably to their college environment when they have their families’ understanding and support. From stress-reduction workshops with our Health and Wellness Director, to college information programs and tours, to financial literacy education, to individual conferences with DTS staff members, we foster a supportive parent peer network, address parents’ concerns about their college-bound students, and facilitate an essential parent-student connection.
Consistent mentorship is a key element in the DTS program. Mutual trust and caring bolsters students’ confidence, and students are apt to perform better when they feel known and understood. While Advisors are students’ and parents’ first line of DTS communication, support is also provided by the Executive Director, Health and Wellness Director, and College Access and Success Counselor, all of whom prioritize getting to know every DTS student. Students meet individually with their Advisor at least once per week to check in about their academic progress, talk through any challenging issues, and hone executive functioning skills like growth mindset, resilience, grit, perseverance, communication, and accountability. DTS doesn’t solve students’ problems; rather, it provides a safe, nurturing place for students to practice addressing obstacles on their own and with their peers.