When High School Career Connect was established in 2018 to work with middle- and high-school students in Denton County, Greater Texas Foundation and UNT set several goals for the program in line with Texas's House Bill 5, also known as the Foundation High School Program.
The first two goals:
• serve 500 students per year and 1,500 students in the three years
• increase postsecondary enrollment
The performance in some areas, such as increasing freshman declaring majors, increased postsecondary graduation, decreased student-loan debt, and increased job placement, will take several years to be measured, since HSCC's first group of eighth graders is in its junior year in high school.
However, it is possible to evaluate the early progress and performance of the program.
What qualifies as "served?" Simply sitting through an assembly or classroom presentation was deemed an insufficient standard. Instead, a student was "served" if the student had a one-on-one session with an HSCC mentor.
In Spring 2018, HSCC began establishing connections with local schools and training mentors. It conducted its first presentation at Fred Moore High School on March 23, 2018, and its first one-on-one mentoring sessions at Fred Moore on April 9, 2018.
How has HSCC met the initial metrics set for the program by GTF and UNT?
Serve 500 students per year
HSCC topped the annual goal in its first full semester. Over its first three years, that rate has continued to climb, and HSCC has averaged more than its annual goal in each semester.
Serve 1,500 students in the first three years.
In its first two years, HSCC exceeded the three-year goal by 170 percent. By the end of the Spring 2021 semester, which marked the end of the program's first three years, HSCC shattered the three-year goal by 267 percent.
In Fall 2021, HSCC mentored 826 students. Touchpoints include mentoring, classroom presentations, assemblies, career fairs, workshops, UNT campus tours, and emails.
In three and a half years, HSCC has averaged mentoring 690 students per semester - more than its annual goal.
In its brief history, High School Career Connect's area of operation has expanded to:
- 5 counties
- 16 cities
- 40 middle schools, high schools, and private schools
- 9 educational programs, such as Texas Workforce iWorks, STEM Camp, Girls in the Game, Men of Color Success Summit, and UNT Police Outreach
- 6 collegiate programs, such as UNT's First Flight, Orientation Resource Fair, and Denton County Prospective Freshmen
Visit HSCC's partner schools page for a complete list of schools working with HSCC.
The second goal of the HSCC program is increasing the number of high-school graduates enrolling in college or trade school. While the majority of students mentored by HSCC are not yet high-school seniors, more than 200 participating students from Denton County completed high school by the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
That original group of HSCC-mentored students enrolled in postsecondary education at a rate 67 percent higher than statewide and 79 percent more than Denton ISD prior to HSCC's formation.
The first students to benefit from HSCC mentoring and the subsequent endorsements over the course of their entire high-school education have not graduated high school, so the effect of HSCC's program cannot yet be measured. However, the initial group of HSCC-mentored high-school graduates have started college, and an early indicator of HSCC's impact is retention rate: how many of those students return for their sophomore year of postsecondary education.
In Fall 2019 and Fall 2020, 199 HSCC-mentored graduates from Lake Dallas, Ponder, Sanger, Argyle, and Denton High School enrolled at UNT. The retention rate of HSCC-mentored students is higher than the national average and UNT's full retention rate.
Several of High School Career Connect's performance targets cannot be measured yet. The program's ultimate goal - which was the motivation for the 83rd Texas Legislature's House Bill 5 and Greater Texas Foundation's funding of HSCC - is increasing Texas's postsecondary-educated workforce.
The majority of the students mentored have yet to graduate high school. The eighth graders mentored in HSCC's first year will not be high school seniors until 2022-23, and will not be college seniors until 2026-27.
HSCC is tracking the progress of program alumni, and the following targets and milestones will be measured over the next several years:
HSCC's career assessments, guidance, and planning resources help students chose endorsements, arming students with individualized career paths, which is manifested in declaring a major in their freshman year.
That higher career-path confidence decreases changing majors in college and allows students to follow their strategic plans for coursework, campus activities, and student employment.
In 2018, only 19 percent of Texas high-school graduates completed postsecondary education. HSCC's primary goal is to raise that number.
By better preparing students for postsecondary education and decreasing change of majors, students complete postsecondary education faster and therefore with less student debt.
Those individualized career paths and strategic plans allow students to maximize their postsecondary experience and enter the workforce with an enhanced skillset and increased employment potential.