There are a few ways to look at this questions- by vision and program:
A Unique Vision: The focus of college success non-profits in Boston has been on college persistence and graduation. At Noonan Scholars, we focus instead on the degree, skills, and experiences our students graduate with, not just that they graduate. Our top low-income students of color are currently under-achieving in the college game. They earn a degree, but not from the right school, in the right major, with the right grades and the right professional experience for the competitive and leadership careers they seek. They need a set of supports that will set them up for success when they graduate from college, and our programming is designed to ensure those results.
Program Elements: There are a few elements of our programming that most other non-profits do not offer. They include:
- Pre-College Academic Prep: Less than 1 in 4 low-income students of color at the most selective schools who want to major in STEM or other rigorous majors are able to graduate in that major. Instead, students frequently enter college with inadequate math and writing skills, struggle in their first year, and are counseled to switch to less rigorous majors. To combat this trend, we created our Summer Academy. It is an intensive academic program on a college campus that provides high school juniors and seniors with 210+ hours of instruction in college-level writing and math, taught by college professors. It is a prime reason our Scholars are able to receive good grades and persist and graduate in rigorous majors, and is not part of any other college access and success program.
- Professional Mentors: First-generation, low-income students often lack professional role models in their family and community, knowing few people who attended a four-year college or who hold jobs in degree-dependent careers. Such professionals provide critical guidance and help students gain access to networks and opportunities that lead to jobs positioned for growth within competitive fields. Noonan pairs each Scholar with a mentor who is the first person in the Scholar’s network, provides guidance and one-on-one support, serves as a role model, and exposes the student to different career paths.
- Holistic approach: While many programs offer certain elements of our program- such as mentoring, high school academic prep, college advising, scholarships, SAT Prep, college academic support, career and internship support- Noonan is unique in that it provides all of these supports. Noonan starts with Scholars as juniors in high school, and provides the resources and opportunities they need through college graduation, until they find their first job or are accepted into graduate school.