Social Innovation

Social Innovation Spotlight: Hartford Promise Integrated College Success Model

Social Innovation Spotlight is a new quarterly feature launched by Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program to highlight the contributions of social innovators promoting the health and well-being of children, families and communities.

Innovation Description: Hartford Promise is an integrated college success model that seeks not only to help Hartford public school students finance their college education, but also works to ensure those students are successful in college and beyond by helping them access appropriate social, emotional, and academic supports and resources.

Innovation Interaction with Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program: Hartford Promise participated in a Community Health Innovation Check-Up hosted by Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program (AKIP) in Fall 2016. Hartford Promise also received technical assistance from AKIP in Spring 2017 that helped them define their innovation model and articulate an evaluation framework that will allow them to assess their impact.

Innovation Background: Hartford Promise’s aim is to strengthen Hartford’s college going culture, increase student expectations, increase the number of Hartford students going to and graduating from college, and add to a larger, more qualified, local work force.

The Hartford Promise Integrated College Success Model provides Hartford Public High School (HPHS) students with important financial resources (up to a $20,000 college scholarship), critical personal supports, transition services and key relationships, both in high school and at the college level, that lead to college success. Frequently programs have one of these kinds of supports, but do not combine them all.

Innovation Need: With only 23 percent of HPHS graduating seniors going on to complete a college degree in six years, Hartford Public Schools have an urgent need that requires immediate attention and a new approach. An under-educated community leads to an array of economic and social problems, which leads to a city that is not flourishing. The Hartford Promise Integrated College Success Model, based on sound research on college success for low-income first-generation minority students, is the most clear and direct way of addressing and reversing this problem.

Core Components of Innovation: The core components of the Hartford Promise Integrated College Success Model are:

  • Financial Scholarship: Our innovation provides sustained financial assistance for scholars to reduce the financial barriers of pursuing a college education.
  • Reaching Back: Engagement with School Districts and Schools – We engage with local school districts and individual schools, as well as individual students. Hartford Promise “Reaches Back” into the HPHS system, and works directly with the school administration, teachers and counselors so that all Hartford students are aware of its scholarship and become college-aware and college-focused at the outset of their high school careers, and on track for college admission and success. Hartford Promise also assists with coordinating college access, preparation and support services to help Hartford high school students take advantage of all available resources.
  • Reaching Forward: Engagement with Post-Secondary Institutions – We engage with colleges and universities to ensure every scholar is known and has access to the resources and services essential for their success. Hartford Promise “Reaches Forward” by building strong college and university partnerships to make sure every Promise Scholar is known and provided the transitional support and services proven to increase the likelihood for college success. This includes mentoring, peer-to-peer support networks, navigating college resources for students and parents, financial and career planning, and internship and other work opportunities.
  • Scholar Engagement: In order to best serve Promise Scholars, Hartford Promise works to get to know its Scholars, and to have them know us. This starts by meeting with students when they are in high school, and continues throughout college. It further includes Promise Scholar Day, a full day of programming, held in August, devoted to the transition from high school to college. It also includes making sure all Promise Scholars know that Hartford Promise is both a resource and a support system for them.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: Hartford Promise collects baseline data and impact data for distinct populations: HPHS students, Promise college-going Scholars, and non-Promise students. Promise Scholar results will be compared to “non-promise going” Hartford students, to statewide data, and to national trends.

Structural Requirements of Innovation: The structural requirements of our Integrated College Success Model are:

  • Organizing Entity: Hartford Promise is the organizing entity for its Integrated College Success Model.
  • Diversified Funding Streams: A diversified funding stream is essential to support the infrastructure necessary to sustain Hartford Promise’s Integrated College Success Model of combined financial scholarships and relationship supports.
  • Release of Information: Communication between Hartford Promise (the organizing entity) and the institutions that support scholars is essential for the successful implementation of Hartford Promise’s Integrated College Success Model. Releases of Information enable Hartford Promise to communicate directly with a scholar’s college regarding academics, financial health, student life, and well-being.

What skills and characteristics do you think social innovators need to promote the optimal healthy development of children, strengthen families, and support communities?

Understanding the community, as well as its context and norms, is critical to developing community support and excitement.

Why are you passionate about promoting the health and well-being of children, families, and communities?

There is a traditional greeting of the Masai tribe in Kenya: “How are the children?” The answer to this question tells you everything you need to know. It recognizes the high value their society places on its children’s well-being; when the children are well, so is the society they live in.

Hartford Promise is passionate about the education, health and well-being of Hartford children, because we know when the children are well, Hartford will be well. If we can help more children in Hartford reach higher, and attain college success, then we know that the children, and their children, will be well. Indeed, there is strong data telling us that higher education and college success more than anything else improves health outcomes, improves social outcomes such as family composition, home ownership, incidents of crime and addiction, and eliminates the impact of poverty generally. These are all key factors that can create more stable, vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods and communities, especially here in Hartford. We are passionate about the children, because we know when they succeed, the communities they live in succeed. The children need to be well.

What value did you gain from engaging with Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program?

Hartford Promise is extremely grateful to the Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program. We deeply value their longstanding experience in the field of prevention and service to children, their thoughtfulness and depth of inquiry, and their grounding in strong research. The time they were willing to give us, and their extensive thoughtful analysis of our work, was invaluable to help us look at our program more clearly, appreciate the innovation of our Integrated Model more fully, and help us crystallize the strength of our message about what we do and why it matters.

What advice do you have for social innovators promoting the health and well-being of children, families and communities?

Hartford Promise President Richard Sugarman offers the following advice:

  • Always remember the key question: How are the children?
  • Be bold – try new things, have clear ways to measure the effectiveness of what you try, revise where necessary, and try again.
  • Engage those not typically engaged.
  • Be an active and learning listener.
  • Raise more than enough money.

Read more about the Hartford Promise Integrated College Success Model here.

Read additional articles on the Advancing Kids Blog related to health promotion.


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