A City Connects connection to college

Jama Badinghaus, a City Connects Coordinator at Chaminade Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio, has been helping students apply to college for several years. Now she’s doing it in the middle of a pandemic — and she’s encouraging students to reach beyond the colleges they know to choices they hadn’t considered. 

“My role is on the support side,” Badinghaus says, “helping students think about what they want to do and asking if families have the resources they need.”

“We’ve put more energy into making sure that students have access to financial aid information. We’re making sure that students have a better sense of how to complete college applications, and we educate them about specific programs for first generation students [who are the first in their families to attend college] or for low-income kids.” 

For Badinghaus this has meant diving deep into programs like QuestBridge, a national nonprofit that connects exceptional low-income students with competitive colleges. 

Because Badinghaus knew about QuestBridge, she worked with her schools’ teachers — and used City Connects data — to identify a student who would be a strong candidate for the program. She knew this student was active in school and that he had a job working early morning hours in a bakery.

“I knew that if he spent the time it takes to go through the application process, he would have a really good chance, which is why I pushed him.” 

“QuestBridge is a highly competitive program,” Badinghaus explains. In the 2020-2021 season, the deadline for applying to QuestBridge was September 29 – much earlier than colleges’ early admission and regular admission deadlines. Students write multiple essays for each of the schools they want to apply to. Some students may “match” with a college early. Others can continue the process. 

The student Badinghaus worked with completed the process, applying to 12 schools, and won a full scholarship to Princeton University – a school that hadn’t initially been on his radar. 

“I was pretty proud, not just because he did all the work, but also I was aware enough to make sure the opportunity was presented to him.”

“He was looking for an opportunity to go to a four-year school. He wanted the best opportunity that was financially accessible to him. And he was open to schools all over the country and open to the opportunity to go away.” 

The student says his success is due to teachers and mentors. In addition: 

“Finally, the person who made all of this possible was Mrs. Badinghaus. She told me to go after this scholarship and helped me through every single step. She found ways to help with this scholarship and issues that I was facing in my life.” 

Beneath this good news college story is a good news City Connects story about how powerful it is when schools have warm, personal – and data-enhanced – relationships with students as our City Connects Coordinators do. 

“We try to streamline the college application process so that the time we’re spending with individual students is mostly devoted to getting a better sense of who they are and what they need,” Badinghaus says. 

The pandemic has forced changes such as holding information sessions about financial aid online. But Chaminade Julienne recorded the session and posted it online, creating an accessible resource for parents who couldn’t attend live. And while students couldn’t visit college campuses, Badinghaus kept them connected to colleges’ virtual sessions and campus tours. 

Despite being virtual, the heart of the work that coordinators do remains the same.

“As a coordinator, I want to connect students to opportunities they may not be aware of,” Badinghaus says. “I want to connect them to programs that can really open doors for them.”

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