Because the official NECA launch and recruitment began late, the committee realized that it may not have had the time to fully think through certain aspects of the school that families were eager to know. For example, NECA is a school within a school, housed within Norwalk High School. Steering Committee members were not initially ready to answer questions about how students would be able to manage a longer class schedule and still participate in the larger Norwalk High School extracurricular activities, such as band, athletics, or theater. These early questions helped the Steering Committee focus on making quick decisions on this and other significant issues, so that they could clearly communicate to students and families the school’s expectations and opportunities.
At the end of the recruitment window, NECA held a final information session in the Norwalk High School cafeteria. The partners were thrilled to see the cafeteria filled with an audience of more than 80 students and family members. The audience asked a broad array of questions from funding sustainability and statewide support, to specific programmatic elements such as mentoring and internships. It would have been difficult to answer families’ questions thoroughly without having representatives from all partners present. More than 30 families submitted their decisions to enroll their children in NECA by the end of the evening, bringing the total student count to more than 80 a few days before the application deadline. In the end, more than 90 students enrolled in NECA.
NECA’s recruitment challenges should lessen over time. NECA will compete for students at the same time as other Norwalk high schools, and now has a fully-formed program that it can showcase. Just one month into the 2014-2015 school year, planning is under way for recruitment for next year’s class and will almost certainly include the voices of NECA students, sharing their experiences with a new crop of potential applicants.
For more information about a Diverse Student Body in the P-TECH 9-14 model, please visit Diverse Student Body.
Mentor volunteers at NECA come from communities surrounding the school and are able to see firsthand the impact their commitment can make on the lives of students.