Since 1997, Bottom Line has addressed the low college graduation rates of first-generation students from low-income backgrounds by providing valuable mentorship and guidance to high-schoolers and college students in the Boston, Chicago, and New York City areas.
SmartBear recently partnered with Bottom Line, and we got the chance to sit down with Executive Director Ginette Saimprevil to learn more about Bottom Line’s history, and how organizations can help support their important mission.
Amber: I’d love it if you could first tell us about Bottom Line. Where you’re located, your mission, really anything you’d like to share.
Ginette: Sure. Bottom Line helps first-generation, degree-aspiring students from low-income backgrounds to get into college, graduate, and go far in life by establishing themselves in a mobilizing first job. Since being founded in Boston 25 years ago (our anniversary is next year!), we’ve grown from serving 25 students to a network of nearly 8,000 students in our Massachusetts, New York, and Chicago regions.
Our vision is to create a far-reaching ripple effect, launched by the transformative power of a college degree and a mobilizing first career that will uplift individuals, families, and entire communities. As an alum of the program myself, I can attest to the deep relationships we forge with each of our students which are built on trust, collaboration, and results. We are one of the first organizations to commit to supporting students from their senior year of high school, through their college transition and for up to six months after students graduate. Our commitment to them is, "We will not let you fail." Ultimately, we celebrate success that is both single and shared.
Our historic six-year graduation rate is 76% which is nearly double the national average for all students; and on average, our students earn nearly double their family income in their first job out of college.
Amber: How many students have you been able to support over the years, and what types of support does Bottom Line provide them with?
Ginette: Using codified curricula, we provide one-on-one relationship-based and data-driven guidance to each of our students. This guidance spans from college applications and selection, until college graduation, and overlayed on this work is coaching to develop our students’ career and social capital to launch their careers. While there are wonderful organizations focused on serving the most academically competitive students, Bottom Line is focused on serving the many rather than the few students in the “movable middle” whose potential and drive exceed their opportunity.
We serve thousands of first-generation high school and college students across Massachusetts (our flagship region), and ensure they have access to higher education and a career path. This past year—even with the unexpected and heightened challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic—we celebrated 419 Bottom Line Massachusetts college graduates. Since 1997, more than 4,200 Bottom Line students have successfully graduated from college, and in this year’s program, we will serve more than 2,600 students through a hybrid in-person and virtual model.
Amber: What are some of the most pressing needs that young people have today and where Bottom Line has been able to make a significant impact?
Ginette: Bottom Line serves high school and college students ages 16-24 who are from low-income backgrounds and who are first-generation-to-college. While unwavering in their motivation, potential, and ambition, nearly all have life experiences which are deeply shaped by either intergenerational poverty or the struggles that people of color and/or recent immigrants often face in this country. Our students face and overcome a myriad of obstacles on their path to college and career success which have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., lack of social and economic capital, housing and food insecurity, tension between family and school obligations, lost wages, mental health issues, and anxiety, and network gaps).
While we have unfortunately seen college enrollment, persistence and graduation rates decline nationally due to the pandemic, we are grateful that we have seen no significant change in Bottom Line student outcomes. Our in-person programming shifted to virtual platforms last spring due to COVID-19. Advisors have been providing remote support via video, phone, and text communication. Advisors have also continued their 1:1 relationships and support for college students via remote services to ensure students stay on their college and career paths. We’re also helping students navigate increased anxiety about the impact of income loss on their ability to pay for school on top of other family needs, remote learning, a narrowing job market, and all the other unknowns that characterize this difficult time.
To help students address immediate needs (e.g., internet connectivity, groceries, school books, etc.) we developed an Emergency Fund for students. Also, we have intensified our efforts to connect college graduates and alumni with volunteer mentors who can expand their professional networks.
This past year, we ensured that:
• 3,024 students received 1:1, individualized college advising and career guidance
• 100% of Access students were accepted to college and at least 96% made commitments by 9/1
• 80% of students had at least two meetings with their advisor each semester
• 419 students became the first in their families to graduate college (80% graduated within Bottom Line’s debt limits of $31k)
Amber: How important are corporate partners to Bottom Line’s mission, and what are some of the ways that companies are able to lend valuable aid?
Ginette: Bottom Line’s model is proven to work for three main reasons: 1) the authentic, trusting 1:1 relationships our Advisors build with each student, 2) our data-integrity and collection, and 3) our codified, evidence-based curricula. However, our work would not be possible without the network of relentless allies and corporate partners who provide wraparound supports to ensure our students persist to earn their degree while also building their social and career capital to launch mobilizing careers. It is thanks to SmartBear and our network of 25+ start-up, mid-size and global companies who partner with us across various industries that our degree-aspiring students benefit from support that:
• Builds "Soft" job skills and professional networks
• Explore industries/jobs
• Provide mentorship
This past program year, we collaborated with our partners around building a diverse talent pipeline among our students and providing meaningful mentoring and volunteer opportunities for our students and their employees. It takes our corporate partners’ belief in our students and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion to help us begin to change the engrained systems and structures which have historically excluded and limited the opportunity for our students to achieve their dreams and greater economic mobility.
Together, this past year, we ensured that:
• 400+ Bottom Line students applied for internships, part-time or full-time roles, with 135+ student hires
• 400+ students received college and career volunteer mentoring from 350+ volunteers during 14 volunteer and mentoring events (e.g., Empowering the Next Generation Roundtable Mentoring, Career Champions 1:1 Mentoring Program, Career Networking Nights, Job Shadows, Resume-Building, etc.)
• The vast majority of our corporate partners provided volunteer time on our Volunteer Leadership Groups
Amber: Where can companies who are interested in partnering with Bottom Line learn more about your partnership program?
Ginette: To learn more about Bottom Line’s partnership opportunities, please reach out to Alana Hill, Director of Corporate Partnerships at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-417-7885.