As we prepare for another graduation season, the Tacoma College Support Network (TCSN) is finding new ways to amplify their work. This time, with clear input from high school staff.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Network members are visiting with Tacoma high school counselors, principals and faculty to better understand what’s been working for kids and where TCSN can offer support that’s synced up with schools.
“Often, when people ask for input, they don’t necessarily listen to listen. They listen to respond,” says DJ Crisostomo, a member of TCSN and a lead partner for the tours. “With these listening tours, we are trying to be very intentional and make this a real opportunity to just listen.”
What began as a way to assess TCSN’s signature program, College Bound Saturday, became an opportunity to level set and examine all programs that are on the table. After much deliberation, TCSN decided this winter to no longer host the event. Instead, however, they will work closely with high school staff to amplify their efforts — ultimately providing all TPS students, College Bound Scholar-eligible or otherwise, with consistent, coordinated support.
Prior to managing Student Transition Programs at the University of Washington-Tacoma, DJ spent more than a decade at Mount Tahoma High School helping students prepare for college. It was only natural that the small group start there.
“I wanted to start the tours at Mount T because I knew the staff and faculty there would be honest with me,” DJ says. “It was a good litmus test before going to the rest of the schools.”
The tour brought up questions around filling gaps both throughout the year and during the summertime; bringing heightened focus on the transition time between eighth and ninth grade; and working together to prepare students for college entrance exams, including the SAT.
College Bound Saturday was one of the better known of the TCSN strategies and one of the largest family engagement events for college and career. The annual event gave College Bound Scholar-eligible students an opportunity to explore their postsecondary options through workshops around financial aid, college fit, access and more. However, in the near decade that the Network organized and hosted the event, their work has evolved beyond promoting CBS sign-ups to coordinating community around college completion and enrollment.
“It became harder and harder to justify the number of resources we were spending when there are opportunities to do more,” explains DJ.
Since meeting with Mount Tahoma, TCSN members have also met with Wilson High School. To provide the most accurate representation of feedback possible, TCSN is assigning 3-4 note takers at the tours. Once tours are complete, the next steps will be to provide an executive summary along with the consolidated notes to the full Tacoma College Support Network, as well all the high schools.
The group will wait to define their action commitments until after they meet with all five schools. In the meantime, DJ says, the tours are a reminder that even though we’re all on the same side and our high schools in the same district, our work can easily silo. By providing everyone a synopsis of the feedback, TCSN can help bridge the divide.
“My hope is that we can build more trust between the district and TCSN,” says DJ. “We are all working toward the same things. So why not create opportunities to listen to one another.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Tacoma College Support Network, join us for a Network meeting at 8:30 a.m. on the third Friday of every month. You can also reach us directly at 253.272.1600 or email TCSN@GraduateTacoma.org.