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Up to Speed with Project Accelerate: Year One Recap

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In the year since officially launching Project Accelerate, we’ve been racing towards success at every turn. With over two dozen active members, our first cohort is a blend of brilliant college freshmen, high school seniors and juniors. Accordingly, our programs are tailored to meet a variety of needs as each girl moves towards her next life transition – from high school to college, and from college to career. We’re excited to share with you all the exciting progress Project Accelerate has made in our inaugural year!

After kicking off in March at the Bold Futures Breakfast, Project Accelerate went full speed ahead into one of the most pressing topics for students and parents: scholarships and financial aid. Girls and parents learned about scholarship opportunities and ways to make college more accessible. Along with information about federal financial aid, Project Accelerate participants also learned how Girls Inc. can help, from waiving college orientation fees to assisting with scholarship applications. 

This session was particularly applicable for our incoming freshman, some of whom are first generation college students. In an effort to help these young women understand what their classes would be like, we also reached out to each incoming freshman’s college and major department to schedule meetings with their advisors, current students, or recent alumni. 

For our 13 high school seniors and juniors, preparing for college entrance exams is a major focus. Volunteers have been providing individual test prep sessions, in addition to the ACT Boot Camps provided by College Admissions Made Possible. This has already made a big impact, as several girls have been able to raise their scores substantially. In addition to helping girls prepare for the test, we’ve also helped make the test more accessible by reaching out for accommodations. 

After the entrance exams, college applications are the next big hurdle for our high school participants. We worked to reduce barriers by assisting with application fees, particularly during Free College Application Week. This effort was a huge success, as our seniors applied to a combined total of seventeen colleges! 

Another goal of Project Accelerate is to foster career readiness of participants and help them build their networks. Throughout the year, girls have explored future avenues of success through a series of Career Speaker workshops. Additionally, we worked to secure summer internships or job shadowing opportunities to provide each incoming college freshman with hands-on experience in their desired career field. This year, participants’ interests spanned from digital marketing and video production to speech pathology and health administration. 

Overall, Project Accelerate’s first year has been a tremendous success. As we move into our second year, we are excited to continue expanding programming, recruiting members, and developing relationships within the Birmingham community. Program Manager Nichole Morris says, “I’m looking forward to continuing the work we’re doing and seeing how our impact grows!”

Future endeavors for the program include establishing a Project Accelerate scholarship for college upperclassmen. As our work continues, stay tuned to learn more about Project Accelerate’s current impact and future plans!