The Next Generation Scholars program at Kent County High School welcomed back recent alumni Tuesday, Jan. 10 to the school's Tom McHugh Black Box Theater for a conversation with current students about the college experience. From left are Alexia Sullivan, Ronald Parker, Jodi Novak, Jack Cullum, Kimberly Yoc Solis, Giuseppe Gordillo, Jordyn Cox Pemberton, NextGen Scholars Program Coordinator Aundra Anderson, Myona Moore, Ashlyn Rodriguez, Alana Fithian-Wilson and Jose Vela.
WORTON — It's been five years since Kent County Public Schools partnered with the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education to launch a program boosting students' college and career readiness and the numbers show it is clearly paying off.
Kent County Public Schools is one of five school systems in the state hosting the Next Generation Scholars program.
Grant-funded through a partnership with the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MRBT), the program connects identified students in 10th through 12th grades to the Maryland Higher Education Commission pipeline.
"At any given time, we're working with three to five classes of students," said Aundra Anderson, NextGen Scholars (NGS) program coordinator at Kent County High School. "Currently, we're launching the NGS Alumni program, because we noticed that students were still coming back to get assistance and we realized there is an opportunity to connect high school students to recent grads."
Among the members of Kent County High School's Class of 2022 were 47 NextGen Scholars. Nearly three-quarters of the NextGen Scholars went on to college or trade school. A number of them received additional financial support for higher education through grants and scholarships.
Anderson leads students on college tours, discusses what they want for their future, helps them find their path and works with them through the college application process.
Volunteers play a big role in the program as well.
In December, 10 local professional volunteers hosted mock job interview sessions with 11th graders. A total of 70 students participated in the interviews held in the high school's media center.
Students presented résumés that they prepared in classroom sessions with MBRT and professional volunteers. Interviewers provided on-the-spot feedback and written comments shared later with the students.
Coming back this month from winter break, Anderson invited recent Kent County High School alumni to speak with students about their college experience so far.
The alumni who participated in the annual "Discover Your Future" talk attend a wide range of institutions, from those nearby like Chesapeake College to those farther away like York College. There were University of Maryland and University of Delaware students who talked about life on larger campuses.
The NextGen Scholars received practical college advice on issues like class scheduling and whether or not to bring a car on campus. They participated in discussions on more personal issues like the importance of self-care and mental health.
"'Discover Your Future' — the event that brings alumni back to speak with current students — is my favorite event of the year," Anderson said. "We get to witness the growth of our former students while simultaneously watching the curiosity and hope for future classes. The alumni and current students teach each other. It's awesome to see the connections being made."
As the program begins to move into its sixth year, Anderson continues to look for opportunities to expand it.
"MBRT Next Generation Scholars has developed so much these past five years. We now have the NGS Leaders Group and NGS Alumni, and we keep refining the programming to meet the needs of the students and community," Anderson said. "In just five years, we've been able to create, restart and host so many events and I look forward to many more."
Jaylin Whye and Aurora Ramirez, members of the Kent County High School Class of 2023, greet visitors to the school's media center Friday, Dec. 2 for mock job interviews organized by the Next Generation Scholars Program.