Reach Higher Newsletter #3

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Reach Higher Newsletter #3

President Speaks at Banneker High School

President Announces Historic Graduation Rate

On Monday, October 17th, President Obama visited Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., to announce the highest high school graduation rate in American history: 83.2 percent of students graduated from high school in the 2014-2015 school year. Notably, there were gains across all subgroups of students, including students of different ethnicities, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

The President also highlighted some of the hallmark education achievements of his Administration. These included the Race to the Top competition, which increased standards, improved curriculum, and further equipped teachers to succeed, as well as efforts to bring high-speed internet to 20 million more students.

Finally, the President also discussed his and the First Lady's work to encourage more students to complete the FAFSA:

"So one of the things that we’re trying to do is to make it easier for you to access free money for college -- to figure out how you can pay for your college without having a mountain of debt.  And the key thing -- and Michelle and I and others have been really emphasizing this -- is to fill out your FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid […] Because what the FAFSA does is it puts you in the running for scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs, all to help you pay for college.  And we've made it simpler than ever.  And it's available right now at" 

November: College Application Month

On October 28, 2016, President Obama signed a Presidential Proclamation regarding National College Application Month, November 2016:

"This month, we recognize the limitless potential in every student and reaffirm our commitment to offering them the resources they need to succeed. We thank not only the teachers, counselors, and parents who support students throughout the college application process, but also the organizations and institutions partnering with us to eliminate unnecessary barriers to higher education. Let us celebrate the progress we have made as more historically underserved students are enrolling in college for the first time, more students are graduating from college than ever before, and new student loan defaults are on the decline. And together, let us forge a future where every student has the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them […] I call upon public officials, educators, parents, students, and all Americans to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs designed to encourage students to make plans for and apply to college."

Read more about the Proclamation and the President's efforts to make college accessible and affordable for all students here.

School Counselor Court Sign

Counselors in Action

 5th National Reach Higher Convening

The fifth National Reach Higher Convening took place October 28th-30th at the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. The convening was entitled, "Connecting the Dots: Cultural Competence, Counseling, and Career Readiness of Underserved Youth." Stay tuned for a special edition of the Reach Higher newsletter later this month on important takeaways from the event. 

American University College of Law

Next National Reach Higher Convening

Looking ahead, Arizona’s College and Career Readiness team is planning a National Reach Higher convening in Arizona from March 6th-8th, 2017 entitled, “Systemwide Sustainability for College and Career Readiness: Building Strong and Lasting Supports for School Counseling and Advising,” demonstrating the momentum of this initiative going beyond the Administration.

Stack of notebooks

 Reach Higher Progress Report

During the first two and a half years of the First Lady's Reach Higher initiative, your incredible work has resulted in nine convenings and 42 state teams all across the country striving to meet the President's goal of once again leading the world in college attainment. Find out more about the richness and diversity of college opportunity efforts happening across the states in our upcoming report on Reach Higher's progress thus far, to be released in the next few weeks.

Reach Higher & Better Make Room Host Webinars

College Access eSummit Title Slide

In the past month, Reach Higher and Better Make Room have hosted two webinars on the First Lady's college access initiatives and her new free college support tool Up Next, with additional webinars hosted with partners such as My Brother's Keeper, AVID, Strive Together, ASCA, the Florida College Access Network, and the Tennessee College Access Network in partnership with TalentED. 

Missed the webinars? You can catch up on the webinar for Reach Higher stakeholders here.

Resources for the tools mentioned in the webinar are below:


College Scorecard

    BMR Logo

    Updates from Better Make Room

    Better Make Room Chalk Sign with First Lady

    Better Make Room 1-Year Anniversary

    October 19th marked the one-year anniversary of when Reach Higher launched the Better Make Room campaign! Over the course of the year, Better Make Room has collected 25,000 student commitments to complete higher education, 790 million impressions online, launched essay contests with Seventeen Magazine and MTV, hosted massive events in New York City and at the White House, and launched a text-messaging tool called Up Next. Here's to many more years to come!

    Application for the Better Make Room Student Advisory Board

    A year ago, First Lady Michelle Obama’s dream for students across America manifested into an education movement: Better Make Room—a campaign to change the national conversation on education, connect with students, and celebrate college. Better Make Room gives students across the nation a space to speak out and helps support the college-navigating experience. Now, we need students to help Mrs. Obama build this movement from the ground up. So, we're announcing the launch of the Better Make Room Student Advisory Board.

    Members of Mrs. Obama's inaugural Student Advisory Board are committed to making President Obama’s North Star goal a reality—that our nation will ONCE AGAIN lead the world in college completion. These students are the groundbreakers and the trailblazers, the creators and the innovators, the organizers and the revolutionaries, who sit ready to catalyze a mass movement of their friends from college application to college graduation.  The Board will work to (1) create a college-going, college-persisting and college-graduating culture at their schools and (2) connect fellow students to any information and resources they might need to succeed. Each Student Advisory Board member will need an educator to sponsor the student's application — and it could be you! Spread the word about the Board, find out more about this opportunity here, and to apply, students should fill out this application by November 27th at 11:59 pm ET.

    BMR Booth at South by South Lawn


    Better Make Room Booth at #SXSL

    On October 3rd, the White House hosted the first-ever South by South Lawn event, a festival of ideas, art, and action on the South Lawn of the White House. The Up Next Lounge was a popular destination for the thousands of attendees, with people stopping by to charge their phones and learn more about the new free text-messaging tool that provides high school and college students and college graduates with the support they need to get from college application to college graduation and to repay their student loans. Tell your students to text COLLEGE to 44044 to sign up!

    I'm a School Counselor What's Your Superpower?

     Thank you for all the amazing work you do every day to help students #ReachHigher! 

    "Michelle and I [...] travel around the world and sometimes we forget that there are places around the world where people have so little but the kids are so hungry for an education.  And they don’t even have an actual roof over their head in some of their schools.  And so even if you’re really poor in this country, you can succeed if you want to invest in the teachers and the community, and everybody raises standards and believes in each other.  And that’s what we want all of America to believe, in every kid -- because there’s magic in each and every one of you.  And we just have to help you unleash it and nurture it and realize it." 

    - President Obama, in a speech at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., on Monday, October 17th, 2016.

    Table of Contents

    Dollar sign

    Upward Bound Grant Application Open

    The Upward Bound grant application for Fiscal Year 2017 is now available! Upward Bound provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college. The program provides opportunities for participants to succeed in their precollege performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits. Upward Bound serves: high school students from low-income families; and high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree. The goal of Upward Bound is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education.

    Information about the application is available here, and here is the Federal Register notice announcing the grant competition. Applications are due by November 28, 2016 at 4:30 pm ET.

    FAFSA Form

    Strong Start for FAFSA Launch

     This year, the 2017-2018 FAFSA launched three months earlier than usual, giving students and families more time to fill out the form and to make important decisions for their future. Additionally, students and families can now use earlier income and tax information, simplifying the FAFSA completion process. On October 1, the FAFSA launched, with many communities across the country hosting FAFSA events and celebrations to help students and families applying for federal student aid. Find more information here on the Administration's resources to support FAFSA completion and college opportunity for students across the nation.

    So far, over a hundred thousand more students have filled out the FAFSA this year compared to this point in previous years. That's already a six percent increase! Keep up the good work!

    First Lady Plays "Heads Up"

    First Lady Michelle Obama joined Youtube star Lilly Singh on her show a few weeks ago to talk about the importance of higher education and to play the Heads Up! game — Reach Higher edition. Check out the video here.

    First Lady Playing Game with Youtube Star Lilly Singh

    Previously on Reach Higher

    Check out previous editions of the Reach Higher newsletter: