October 16, 2023, Durham, NC – Social capital, which is defined as the connections, relationships, and resources available to individuals, plays an instrumental part in college students’ academic and career success. By developing skills to locate and develop relationships with potential mentors around them, such as teachers, school staff, and employers, students may feel encouraged to stay enrolled in college classes and engaged in their academics. The process of learning and practicing skills to build social capital can begin before students even enroll in college; however, these lifelong skills are rarely taught.

iRT President Dr. Janis Kupersmidt with Drs. Sarah Schwartz and Stella Kanchewa developed the Connected Scholars program to teach college students the value of building social capital to achieve their life goals, as well as skills to build their social support networks and develop relationships with potential mentors. The evidence-based Connected Scholars course for college students has now been revised and is available to be taught to high school students making the transition to college classrooms.

The high school version of Connected Scholars may be particularly impactful for college-bound high school students by providing them with a toolkit of help-recruiting and networking skills before they even step foot on campus. Preparing for the transition from high school to college is an excellent opportunity to teach students ways to identify mentors from within their existing networks, so they can begin using their network-building skills their very first semester on a college campus.

The version of the Connected Scholars course intended for high school students is designed to be taught in person by a classroom teacher, afterschool teacher, or trained facilitator. The course consists of 15 lessons, with each lasting approximately 50-75 minutes, as well as an optional 1-hour “Making a Successful Transition to College” panel and a 1.5-hour Networking Event. To deliver the course, instructors receive a digital Teacher’s Manual, teacher’s desk copy of the Scholar’s Workbook, multimedia presentation slides for classroom instruction, program evaluation materials, and general course materials, including a customizable syllabus, grading rubric, and list of materials needed to teach each lesson. Program or school administrators or teachers can purchase the digital student Scholar’s Workbooks in bulk or they can be purchased individually by each student. Additionally, if the course is taught to students who have mentors, instructors can provide mentors with a flyer entitled “Memos to Mentors” that accompanies each of 15 lessons. The Memos contain a list of suggestions for conversations and activities to do with mentees so that they can practice and extend the knowledge and skills taught in the course.

iRT offers a two-day, comprehensive workshop to train future Connected Scholars instructors to teach the course. The training can occur at your site or at iRT’s office, and instructors learn the history and research on youth-initiated mentoring; the conceptual framework and logic model behind the program; how each lesson relates to the model; and suggestions for teaching each lesson. Instructors complete a 1-hour, online certification test following the workshop and can receive a certificate of completion.

If you would like to start teaching your school’s college-bound students the skills they need to expand their networks and seek supportive relationships to achieve their goals, consider offering the Connected Scholars course at your high school: https://admin.connectedscholarsprogram.com/mgmt/orders/default.aspx?_ga=2.158132538.1464804293.1694625988-691666591.1673547691&_gl=1*cueqno*_ga*NjkxNjY2NTkxLjE2NzM1NDc2OTE.*_ga_14LGH7ZE7N*MTY5NDY5OTIxOC4zMS4wLjE2OTQ2OTkyMTguMC4wLjA.


Schwartz, S., Parnes, M., Browne, R., Austin, L., Carreiro, M., Rhodes, J., Kupersmidt, J. B. & Kanchewa, S. (2023). Teaching to fish: Impacts of a social capital intervention for college students. American Educational Research Journal, 60(5), 986-1022.