For the first time, Daemen was home to Buffalo Prep’s senior retreat, bringing 25 high school students on campus this summer to prepare for their post-secondary studies.
The retreat serves to “jumpstart” the college application and admissions process, said David Johnson, director of college counseling services at Buffalo Prep and a double alum of Daemen.
The students engaged in college and career readiness workshops that covered topics that included the Common Application, resume writing, and scholarships/financial aid. Buffalo Prep prepares underrepresented youth to achieve success in college-prep high schools and higher education.
At the retreat, the students spent the first two days at Daemen and finished the week at Canisius College. The retreat also featured a Buffalo Prep alumni panel, which featured current Daemen students.
Between 98 and 100 percent of Buffalo Prep students go onto college, with 100 percent graduating high school. The program has seen 92 percent of Buffalo Prep alums graduate with a bachelor’s degree (or are enrolled to obtain one) over the last eight years.
“I was a first-generation college student myself,” said Johnson. “I do have a strong belief that Daemen provided me so much as a student more than I could have ever imagined. It was the people there.”
“I owe so much to university,” added Johnson, who served as Convocation speaker for Daemen earlier this month.
At the retreat, students learned the practical skills of drafting admissions essays, creating financial aid profiles and understanding financial literacy, as well as resume building and discussing scholarship applications.
Students stayed overnight at Daemen and attended sessions in campus classrooms and ate in the dining halls. They spent downtime recreating, hanging out in the dorm lounges and having a campfire on campus.
“Giving students exposure to a college campus is significant and invaluable,” said Johnson. “It is one that allows students to envision themselves on a campus and to see that college is possible.”
“We simulate as much of college as we can,” added Johnson, who has been at Buffalo Prep since 2017.“With high school students, we should not take for granted that they understand what to do. There is a lot of assumed knowledge out there.”
Johnson can relate to the necessity of the experience, saying he had little guidance for navigating the college application process.
Johnson played basketball for Daemen for two years, after transferring from NCAA Division I program Canisius College. The Detroit native also served as an assistant coach for Daemen’s men’s program.
The goal for Buffalo Prep students is that everyone goes to college or into the military or a skilled trade or takes a gap year to look into entrepreneurship. The organization makes it a point to stay in touch with program alums, connecting them with internships and career opportunities.
“Whatever is their path, we’re going to support them and give them tools,” said Johnson. “I’m all about embracing the struggle and journey. There is joy in the struggle.”
To join, a Buffalo Public Schools student has to be nominated by a counselor, teacher, or parent. Students must identify as highly motivated, as a learner, a student of color, and financially eligible. Then, there’s an application process, admissions test, and interview component. The program has existed for 33 years.
“Our students are definitely having success. Our goal is to empower them,” said Johnson. We have a lot of people who want to hire our students.”
“Plus,” Johnson said. “Students understand that this is a journey that we go on together as a family. We are a community that is here to support you every step of the way.”