NH Promise Scholarships Pitched Door-to-Door

"Promise” Pitched Door To Door
by Jacob Cohn | Jun 27, 2011 4:06 pm
Courtesy of the New Haven Independent
Michelle Sepulveda and Jordan Ringwood were waiting for a school parent to come to the door so they could make a pitch. They noticed a teenage girl peeking from an open door to a nearby apartment. Sepulveda pounced.
Ever heard of “New Haven Promise”? Sepulveda asked.
Despite all the publicity in New Haven about “Promise,” the girl, a student at Career High School, hadn’t ever heard of it.
“Jordan,” Sepulveda instructed, “enlighten her.”
Ringwood gave the girl, a student at Career High School, a rundown on the basics of New Haven Promise: it is a new scholarship program for the public schools. Students who fulfill the requirements can have up to 100 percent of their college tuition paid for, thanks to Yale University and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.
Sepulveda was more direct.
“What are your grades like?” Sepulveda asked. “Be real.”
Bs and Cs, the girl responded.    
Get those grades up all Bs, Sepulveda informed her, and your college tuition in Connecticut could be paid for.
The girl was interested in hearing more—and in possibly going to college with the help of Promise.
That was why Sepulveda and Ringwood hit the streets of Newhallville Saturday.
They were among several pairs of volunteers who fanned out around Newhallville and next-door Dixwell to serve as “CollegeCorps,” the latest stage of New Haven Promise. The idea isn’t just to pay college scholarships for students earning at least a 3.0 in high school. (Read about that here.) It’s also to connect with students and their families years in advance in order to help them prepare kids to be able to get into college and succeed there.
Step one involved canvassing the neighborhoods through CollegeCorps.
Saturday’s drive was the first such door-to-door effort by the corps. Volunteers plan to visit Fair Haven, Dwight and the Hill later in the summer.
“We want to make sure parents know Promise exists,” said Betsy Yagla, communications director for New Haven Promise. Yagla pointed out consistent findings in educational research that parental involvement in their children’s education improves performance.
Yagla said Monday afternoon that she didn’t have numbers on how much people were reached Monday.
Each pair of volunteers was given a list of students who had signed the “Promise Pledge” to fulfill the requirements of the program. Rather than following up with the students, CollegeCorps targeted their parents.
Each parent who was encountered was given a parent kit. Besides outlining the requirements for eligibility for New Haven Promise, the kits describe steps parents can take to become more active in the educational process and ensure that their children keep their grades at an acceptable level. Each pair was given kits in both English and Spanish.
Sepulveda and Ringwood came to CollegeCorps by different routes. Ringwood, a student at Mitchell College, is an intern at New Haven Family Alliance who “decided to come out and help” based on the work she was already doing in the community. Sepulveda, a former alderwoman from the West Hills neighborhood, served on the committee which developed the parent kits as part of her day job: she is a truancy officer at Hillhouse High School.
In advance, volunteers placed bright orange door hangers on parents’ doors beforehand telling them when to expect volunteers. Many of the parents were absent when Ringwood and Sepulveda arrived. The volunteers were equipped with new door hangers for these parents beginning with the phrase “Sorry we missed you.” The hangers gave a phone number and email address where parents could request their parent kits.
Ringwood and Sepulveda were still able to get rid of many of their kits, often presenting them to a neighbor or relative when the parent they sought was not home. Most people said they are interested in the program and ready to hear the New Haven Promise sales pitch.
However, there were a few exceptions, such as one woman who claimed to be “not interested” even after Sepulveda offered to give her the parent kit and leave her alone.

“That just goes to show how much work we have to do,” Sepulveda said.
Nevertheless, both she and Ringwood said they were pleased by the outcome of their efforts. Ringwood said that she was happy for the opportunity to inform people “that their child can go to college for free and how they can take advantage of it.”
“College is a sacrifice for everyone,” Ringwood said.
The next step: Staffers from New Haven Promise plan to folow up with the people whose names Ringwood and Sepulveda gathered, including the Career student gunning for those Bs.