Access and Support: The Role of Community-Based Organizations at Andover

Andover holds itself accountable for representing youth from every corner. Whether internationally or within the U.S., campus is home to students of all different identities. Efforts to diversify the campus include Community-Based Organizations (C.B.O.s), programs for students from underrepresented communities to apply to private boarding schools across the nation.

Today, Andover partners with multiple C.B.O.s in an effort to admit more students from underrepresented communities each year; these C.B.O.s include A Better Chance (A.B.C.), Prep for Prep, Oliver Scholars, and the TEAK Fellowship. Across the nation, these non-profit organizations work to prepare students of color to apply to and attend elite institutions that many students from underrepresented backgrounds might not otherwise have had access to.

Josh Espinoza ’25, a recent graduate of PREP 9, was not exposed to much information about private schools until he joined the organization. He attributes part of his success in the private school application process to the program’s preparatory component, an intensive period in which students attend preparatory classes for the often more rigorous environment of their boarding schools.

“Coming from the Bronx, you don’t really hear about schools like [Andover], you’re really just part of one big school system… There is not really much connection to top elite private schools, like Andover… After seventh or eighth grade year, after doing my first summer [in Prep 9], I was set… I feel like because of all the skills that we were taught that I got another advantage,” said Espinoza.

Fred Javier ’23, a TEAK alum, echoed Espinoza’s sentiment and believes that the program helped him learn about boarding schools like Andover, the admissions process, and provided him with resources in order to get accepted into Andover.

“I think TEAK definitely helped me the most to get here today… I wouldn’t have known what a boarding school or private school really was, and how I would be able to get into a private school in Massachusetts when I live in New York, and having that as a possibility and having a big support network guiding me through all of that,” said Javier.

This support network, as Javier mentioned, is common to many C.B.O.s, including Prep for Prep. The organization offers guidance and support for its students after their experience in the program, offering career opportunities, and a network of successful alumni to graduates of the program. Alissa Fallesgon, Dean of Students at Prep for Prep 9, elaborated on the amount of support Prep for Prep provides students with, even beyond a student’s acceptance into their boarding school.

“With Prep, there’s a lot of support, and the support is not only just with the academic piece, but there’s financial aid, there’s the post placement piece… In terms of mental health and wellness, we have social workers and post placement counselors following up with students, meeting them throughout the year, multiple times a year, and checking in. That continues on into college… At your schools you have a guidance counselor, a college counselor that helps you with the college process. You also have a Prep for Prep advisor that also helps you with your applications, with your statements, with everything, so it’s another level of support,” said Fallesgon.

Part of student support is assisting students in their application process. While some programs require students to fill out applications specific to each school, other programs create their own general applications which students can send to their schools of interest. At Andover, Jessica Acosta-Chavez, ​Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Outreach & Associate Director of Admission, and her team work with these organizations in order to create an equitable application process. To foster equity, Acosta-Chavez works with C.B.O.s to make certain that students submit the necessary materials for admittance.

“Some programs have created their own application as a way to facilitate the process for students and families, meaning that students do not have to submit different applications to different schools – they simply submit their program’s application to all the schools to which they are applying. In the spirit of access and collaboration, Andover accepts our partner C.B.O.s’ applications and works with the C.B.O. counselors to ensure all necessary materials are submitted,” wrote Acosta-Chavez in an email to The Phillipian.

Though these preparatory programs work to provide students from underrepresented communities better opportunities in high school, their origins have the potential for controversy. Tulah Jefferson ’24, an ABC alum from Atlanta, Georgia, expressed that these programs have the potential to promote elitism and burnout amongst students.

Jefferson said, “I can see where [the sense of elitism] is coming from because… some of us are coming from [less wealthy minority] communities and then going up north to whiter spaces. And even the people who weren’t in A Better Chance, just my classmates and stuff, were like, ‘oh, you wanna go be with white people; oh you think you’re too good for us.’ That was something I got a lot from just classmates back at home.”

However, Jefferson continued, “I think [A.B.C.] definitely did more good than harm. There were definitely times where it was just hard and stressful… but in the long run, I think it’s definitely worth it… because Andover’s just going to help enrich my life for the best.”