The Urban Assembly: Encouraging Students Through College
The Urban Assembly is a nonprofit organization that empowers underserved youth by providing them with the skills necessary for postsecondary success. The organization works with 21 middle and high schools located across New York. The Urban Assembly uses Signal Vine to encourage students through college. They message all of their high school graduates, who are mostly low-income, first-generation students of color. Out of these high school graduates, 80 percent matriculate to college directly after high school. The purpose of the texting program is to keep students engaged with The Urban Assembly, and in so doing, help them navigate postsecondary life. The goal is to keep these students motivated and help them advocate for themselves and others.
Urban Assembly needed a cost-effective, scalable way to support 1,000 high school graduates per year and stay in touch with alumni. Staff identified text messaging, and Signal Vine in particular, as the best solution. To plan the content of text messages to recent graduates, staff consider important “transition moments” throughout the year. These events include registration deadlines, add/drop periods, FAFSA due dates, and more. Messages are written to inform students of approaching deadlines and provide additional information and support, then scheduled to send around the deadline. Text messages to alumni of The Urban Assembly program are intended to provide motivation and promote positivity. The Urban Assembly uses Signal Vine to send texts during midterms and finals, when students need this encouragement the most.
All students in college also receive fun text messages around holidays, like Halloween and Christmas, as well as annual birthday texts. One staff member at The Urban Assembly supports between 850 and 2,000 students through Signal Vine’s text messaging platform. She manages her Signal Vine inbox by closely monitoring and responding to students after a text message has been sent out and thereafter, checking her inbox daily and responding to students as needed. The Urban Assembly has a 77% engagement rate, with nearly 50% of their students having texted at least six times over the course of two semesters.
Stephanie Fiorelli, the Postsecondary Success Manager at The Urban Assembly, says that, “students like when we text them to say we’re thinking about them. We try to create a warm environment that urges them to reach out for help when they need it.” This strategy is working: students frequently reach out to The Urban Assembly for help with financial aid, time management, and other college-related tasks and skills. Students are incredibly responsive to encouraging text messages, especially those with funny GIFs and emojis. The Halloween text message gets the most responses. The Urban Assembly uses Signal Vine to ultimately increase postsecondary success. The organization’s current graduation rate is 40% with a goal of 55% by 2022. For now, staff are measuring success by standard text messaging metrics: the program is successful if at least one-third of all alumni text back at least a dozen times per year. The Urban Assembly is currently on track for success.
Messages from Students
“Can I still apply to spring semester?”
“I would like to transfer my school could you help me with that?”
“I just got a tutor so I’m doing better… was at a C and am heading for an A” “Should I check with the financial aid counselor before doing it?”
Jobs and Money
“The hardest part might be paying for certain things and managing my money.” “I’m currently doing both, working and going to school.”
Courses and Majors
“What if I switch my major?”
“There are things that I’m learning in my first year that most business students don’t learn until they’re seniors or actually in the business world.”
Texting lets an organization like ours - one that graduates 1,000 kids per year - scale our postsecondary support, and Signal Vine’s allowances for emojis and GIFs enables a more personalized support that engages millennials in very real ways.
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