OnTrack to Post-Secondary Education: A tool for learning how to navigate high school and the opportunities that lie beyond
By Caitlin Fritz
In the college access and readiness world there are many useful resources and programs available, and a growing number incorporate the use of online platforms. One of these programs, OnTrack, has been developed right in our own backyard, by the Uncommon Individual Foundation (UIF). Based in Devon, Pa., UIF is a nonprofit organization that works to enable individuals to achieve their aspirations through mentoring and other educational techniques. One of the tools UIF has developed is a learning management system called OnTrack.
UIF was founded by Dr. Richard Caruso in an effort to pay forward the mentoring that was so important to him during his life. As a young man, Dr. Caruso had few aspirations beyond high school, until he was mentored by his football coach, who helped turn his life around. With support from his mentor he went on to college and received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. After a successful career in business, he founded UIF, which has been driven by his entrepreneurial spirit.
OnTrack is an online college and career readiness program for students, school counselors, community agencies, and mentors to become informed of the post-secondary education process. Through weekly grade-specific 5-8 minute video modules, OnTrack provides 9th-12th grade students the knowledge to complete their educational experience. It uses a curriculum that has been vetted by a national panel of high school counselors, and includes a variety of topics such as navigating high school, understanding post-secondary options, and how to pay for college. OnTrack is offered at no cost to the students, schools and community agencies as long as they are committed to the program. Schools and agencies that are gifted the program receive training and ongoing support from the UIF staff.
Students are given individual log-ins and the program tracks the students’ completion of each module as they progress through the curriculum. Students can also invite mentors who can work with them through the program and help keep them on track with the curriculum. Counselors can manage an entire cohort of students, monitoring students’ progress, running reports, sending mass communications to students and even communicating with the mentors. Parents can even gain access, and utilize specific tools, answering questions about the FAFSA application and other opportunities for financing college.
OnTrack is being utilized by twenty schools and afterschool programs in western Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia region, including Kensington Health Sciences Academy, Parkway Central High School, Episcopal Community Services, Youth Action Team and Eastern University Academy Charter School. In the fall of 2016, UIF projects to be in use at 40 different organizations. OnTrack has also expanded to the University of Minnesota to be used in their new college pipeline cohort-based program CORE 2025. In addition, components of the OnTrack curriculum have been integrated into educational workshops for students and/or parents during afterschool hours. These workshops include essay writing, goal setting/planning, financial aid, college planning/application process, high school navigation, and self-empowerment.
If you would like to learn more about how OnTrack can benefit the students you work with contact Michael Hackman, UIF Director of External relations at firstname.lastname@example.org
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