by Kevin Harris, Director, Human Services, Exponent Partners.
We are pleased to welcome Kevin Harris, Director of Human Services with Exponent Partners as a guest blogger this month. As an example of a human service organization that has become more social, mobile and collaborative in order to best meet their mission, Kevin interviewed Adam Park, VP of Business Development at Exponent Partners and co-founder of Beyond 12, a national nonprofit organization that integrates coaching with technology to increase the number of traditionally underserved students who earn a college degree.
Why did you co-found Beyond 12?
While running a supplemental college counseling program in Colorado for underfunded public schools, I saw first hand how terribly under resourced the education system was and how this negatively impacted both the quality of instruction as well as the support services for at-risk students.
were a lot of organizations helping kids get to college but not a lot supporting them once they got there. Many kids feel lost and overwhelmed in a new college environment. And the resulting data was striking - the college drop out rates of students from low-income backgrounds were extremely high.
So the idea of Beyond 12 was two-fold: provide personalized coaching to students to help them navigate the transition from high school to college and offer academic, social and emotional support; and develop a technology platform that lets students connect with their peers with similar goals, and also allows high schools, college access organizations and colleges track, analyze and share student performance data.
How is technology and social media used to advance the mission of Beyond 12?
Beyond 12 employs 3 different technology systems to advance the mission.
How is this different from the traditional Facebook platform?
- Alumni Tracking Tool – This tool allows high schools and college access organizations to track their alumni’s qualitative and quantitative college data to evaluate the efficacy of their college readiness models.
- Early Detection System – This system provides real-time access to view student progress data that allows them to detect and resolve student challenges early, before they lead to a student’s withdrawal.
- Student Engagement Site – This is a platform built on Facebook that allows students to set goals, assess their postsecondary expectations and progress, and connect to peers who share common academic and career goals, as well as with mentors, coaches and advisor.
There is no grouping. It is similar to a LinkedIn community within Facebook. Students have a compartmentalized Facebook world where they can have an academic persona, - bringing over only academic information for example - take out all of their partying pictures and make new friends within this world. They can interact with former counselors in a safe, supportive environment. In addition, students also get access to financial aid tips, networking, managing deadlines, and connect to peers of similar backgrounds.
Why did you choose to use Salesforce?
To build something from scratch would have been cost prohibitive, and we needed to go to market with a product that was commercial grade within nine months. Salesforce allowed us to build a million dollar system in a fraction of the time and money, on a fully scalable and extensible platform.
How do you measure success?
We have great success stories that have been featured in many media outlets, but ultimately, we rely on the data that we track in our system. Beyond 12 students have persisted in college well above the national average for the same demographic. We see a direct correlation between the amount of time they spend with our coaches and their success through their first two years of college.
For success indicators, we look at various data points. For example, how quickly they complete their remedial coursework, how many units they are taking, whether they are working full-time jobs, and so on. We also look at their engagement level within our Facebook app to see if they are engaged and have interest in their studies.
What’s next for Beyond 12?
Beyond 12 was just awarded a $100k grant from the Gates Foundation to develop a text-based coaching model on Salesforce so that a school or organization can go into the portal and set up reminders and deadlines as scheduled text messages. Students can then communicate with their coaches via text. Our experience has shown that texts have the highest response rates from students and we believe that building out this part of our platform will only increase the amount of engagement we are able to have with our students.
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