Partner School Confluence Preparatory Academy

Teens from Confluence Academy

This summer, four seniors from Confluence Preparatory Academy traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, with their College Summit teacher, Haley Brueck, for a PeerForward leadership workshop they’ll never forget.

PeerForward is an organization dedicated to transforming the lives of today’s youth by connecting them to college and career. PeerForward uses peer leadership, custom curricula, real-time student performance data and technology to help high school students get to and through college. The PeerForward organization works with high schools to identify eight of the most influential students (4 seniors and 4 juniors) to receive intensive training so they can then share what they learn and share their enthusiasm for college with their classmates. They also help their peers connect the dots between goals for the future and the choices they make in school each day.

Charity Dorsey-Davis, Sonia Reyes, Jalisa Wines, and Demarko Worthey, are the four senior Peer Leaders who attended the University of Maryland for the summer 2016 PeerForward Workshop. They want to share their experience:

“This summer we went on a trip to D.C. to become a peer leader for our school, Confluence Preparatory Academy. We did not know what to expect, but it turned out as we hoped — an amazing experience. The five days we spent at the workshop prepared us for our senior year and we will never forget what we learned. We are so grateful for the opportunity, and that we were the four senior students chosen to represent our school as peer leaders. This trip helped create a strong bond with each other and with our teacher. We also met and bonded with students from across the country. By the end of the workshop, some of us, including Mrs. Brueck, had tears streaming down our faces, realizing the “movement” of change we were about to bring back to our school. The excitement and emotion could not be contained.

“It all started with a plane ride, which was different for all of us, but especially for Sonia Reyes because it was her first one. Unlike Sonia, Charity Dorsey-Davis has flown on a plane before, but she was still nervous because she had not been on a plane in about 3 years. JaLisa Wines and Demarko Worthey were laughing at the both of them and were not afraid at all. We all loved the amazing view and the best part was watching the skyline get smaller as the plane pulled away from St. Louis and toward our new adventure.

“We arrived at the University of Maryland campus after midnight. That did not stop the PeerForward Leader team from serving up food and a warm and very energetic welcome that made us feel grateful and excited to be there.

“We stayed on campus in dorms, but not with each other. We were assigned roommates from schools across the country. From the beginning, it felt like we were actual college students starting our freshman year. While we would have liked to stay in our comfort zone, it was a nice experience to get a roommate that we had to get to know. Every morning when the four of us from Confluence would meet up, we would share funny stories about what had happened the night before with our new friends.

“The entire day was jammed packed with learning sessions–scheduled from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. From those times we could not go back to our rooms unless it was an emergency. They were long days, but the PeerForward team made it fun as we learned about the “movement” we were to bring back to our schools. Movement? What movement? We, the peer leaders, are tasked with promoting three campaigns at our school:

  1. Encourage all seniors to apply to at least three colleges.
  2. Encourage all seniors to apply for the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
  3. Help our peers understand the connection between goals, grades, and their future.

“PeerForward also teamed up with writing professors, college academic coaches and professionals from universities across the country. We were each assigned a writing and college coach. The writing coach helped us write our personal statement for college applications. The personal statement connects our life story to our future college, career, and life success. The college coach worked with us to explore different colleges and universities to discover which ones would be a good fit based on our goals and personality. Each coach listened to our life story, got to know us better, and even helped us start looking and applying for scholarships. This experience working with college professors and professionals opened up a pathway to success because it got us started on our college application process, something we’ll help our peers with back at school.

“The workshop also included rap sessions, which provided an open forum where we could share and listen to each other’s stories. Each rap session was different. Some were energetic and others were emotional. We all came from different cities, backgrounds and cultures, yet these rap sessions provided us with an opportunity to learn about different and similar struggles and gave us a shoulder to cry on, a much-needed hug, and validation that the struggle is real. JaLisa Wines even got up and shared her story, a story that she was afraid to tell anyone before. But after sharing, she realized that it’s going to be okay and that she knows she can’t give up because she has to achieve her goals. We all agreed that the rap sessions were our favorite part of the workshop.

“The workshop concluded with a banquet. The room was filled with the PeerForward team, high school teachers and advisors, college professors and professionals, and students that were ready to create a college-going culture at their home schools. At the banquet, every student had an opportunity to read an excerpt from their personal statement that the writing and college coach recognized as worthy of sharing. This gave everyone just a little taste of each person’s struggles and successes. At the end we were able to eat, thank everyone, take pictures, and dance the night away with our new friends.”

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