Giving High School Students the College EDge

By: Rebecca Garber  |  February 11, 2015

If you were in Furst Hall on Wednesday, December 3rd or passed by the Sky Caf on Friday, December 5th, you may have noticed your fellow YU students engaged in conversation with high school students from the George Washington YABC and the Bronx Community High School. Your fellow YU students were participating in two mentorship events organized by College EDge, a YU-started and managed not-for-profit organization.

Founded in 2010 by YC student Yonah Rubin, College EDge is devoted to preparing underrepresented public high school students for higher education, be it college or college alternatives. The organization came into being as a result of Yonah’s experience tutoring at a public high school in Washington Heights, where he realized that many local students were unaware of how to apply to, and succeed in, college.

The December 3rd and 5th mentorship events were designed to help underrepresented high school students with their college applications.

“Many of the students attending these mentorship events had not previously considered their post-secondary options, so the mentors helped them search for colleges that would match their financial criteria and further their career goals,” said Stern College for Women senior Elianne Neuman, who serves as President of College EDge. “Once they had narrowed down a list of colleges that suited the student’s needs, the mentors then helped the students make sure that they knew of the admission requirements.”

Both mentorship events began with a short icebreaker, and then the YU mentors were paired one-on-one with a high school student. According to Neuman, this one-on-one format “creates a much more intimate atmosphere and allows for a much more personalized mentorship experience. The mentor can really act as a role model and as a resource to the student, and provide them with individualized, targeted advice. The goal is that the mentor will help the student through their entire college application, be it their personal statement or financial aid forms.”

The George Washington YABC was the pilot school for this one-on-one mentorship format in the fall of 2013. After receiving positive feedback from the students, school administrators, and state officials, College EDge decided to offer this program to other schools in the area. The December 5th program was the inaugural one-on-one event with the Bronx Community High School, and the school will be continuing to work with College EDge throughout the spring semester.

Stern College for Women junior Jannah Eichenbaum, the Director of Mentorship for College EDge for the Beren Campus, was responsible for planning these two mentorship events along with Or Mossaiov, the Director of Mentorship for the Wilf Campus.

“I could tell many of the students were nervous at first, but the Yeshiva University mentors put them at ease and really got the students out of their shells,” said Eichenbaum.

As far as the mentors go, Neuman believes that the YU student mentors really have what it takes to get the job done. “Our mentors come from very diverse backgrounds. We have in-towners, out-of-towners, first years, super-seniors, pre-meds, pre-laws—the whole range. It is great because the public high school students who attend the events also have incredibly varied interests and backgrounds. I think that we were able to pair mentors with students who worked well together.”

The program has proved rewarding for the mentors as well.

“I like having a chance to work with a totally different population than I normally would. It’s a really rewarding experience, and it’s not a major time commitment,” said Amanda Cinnamon, who is majoring in Education and who has been serving as a mentor for College EDge for the past year. She continued by saying that “sometimes students just need to get started, and once they have some basic knowledge, they can do the rest on their own or with minimal guidance.”

Sophomore Miriam Pearl Klahr, who is majoring in Jewish Studies and Mathematics, said that “through running programs like College EDge, we show that we are not only concerned with our own community, but that we take responsibility for those around us—both Jews and non-Jews alike.”