How REACH Supports First Gen Students’ Transition to College

This blog post was written by Sengsouvanh (Sukey) Leshnick of Social Policy Research Associates.

SPR released a report highlighting outcomes of an experiential education program funded by the Orfalea Foundation. REACH (Resilience, Education, Adventure, Community and Health) is a four-year program for motivated low- to middle-income students from California’s Santa Barbara County. The program worked to establish a foundation for thriving adulthood by supporting youth in their development as “whole people” and aiding them to lead “lives of purposeful action, continuous learning and courageous pursuit of opportunity.”

Key Lessons

  • REACH provided comprehensive, research-based, long-term programming to achieve outcomes. REACH’s four-year program model is consistent with research findings suggesting that programs with the greatest impact on postsecondary success tend to be those offering intensive services requiring a high level of involvement over an extended period of time
  • REACH integrated virtual, ongoing mentoring to extend support for the successful transition to postsecondary education.
  • REACH’s financial assistance paired with information and assistance in applying for financial aid allowed participants to enroll in and succeed in postsecondary education.
  • Developing relationships well before college was critical. By targeting rising high school juniors, the program was able to help participants envision postsecondary and career goals in advance of the college application process.
  • Outdoor experiences provided a critical venue for personal and relationship development. REACH’s outdoor experiences curriculum provided regular opportunities for participants to cultivate self-awareness, experience measured risk-taking, and practice new skills for navigating life’s challenges.

Download the Executive Summary