HAMMOND — Applying for college and financial aid can be a confusing process for the most savvy senior, but the School City of Hammond is hoping to simplify the process with a new class called The Blueprint.

Supported by a financial gift donated to the Hammond Education Foundation, Hammond High and Hammond Gavit High schools have introduced the course to seniors who want to attend college.

The Blueprint course acquaints students with the multifaceted, sometimes complex process of applying to colleges, applying for scholarships and financial assistance, highlighting volunteer and work experience and various other aspects about what it takes to gain acceptance to college and how to succeed once the student arrives on campus.

Hammond High introduced a pilot version of the course last spring, and each of the 11 students who were in the first class gained college acceptance.

The idea behind the class is to provide a “blueprint” to help students understand and effectively execute the appropriate steps necessary to become a successful college student.

Hammond High’s Blueprint class is taught by Nathan Foor. The teacher for Hammond Gavit’s Blueprint class is Alyssa Arroyo.

Josh Long, executive director of the Hammond Education Foundation, serves as administrative liaison of the course, engaging with teachers and students.

Purdue University Northwest's Honors College and its program coordinator, Brandon Rukes, has been a resource for the Hammond blueprint program.

Last year, the Indiana Department of Education recognized The Blueprint for College Readiness as a promising practice initiated by the school. 

The department commended school districts across the state that instituted programs that were student-centered and inclusive, affected student growth and performance, closed gaps for specific subgroups, and set high expectations within the school community.

Foor said students were hungry for the information.

"Some were afraid because they didn't know exactly what to do," he said.

"It's all about their future, and it's very relevant to their lives. They are hungry to learn as much as they can about the process. I have 27 students this year, and they have all been accepted to a university."

Of the first 11 who were accepted to college from Hammond High, only one dropped out. Foor said he calls the students once per week to follow up with them and they've met three times as a group.

Long said they will measure the program's success by the number of students who stay in college and graduate.

Long said they also plan to expand the program to Hammond's two other high schools, George Rogers Clark and Morton.

Arroyo said students have been a joy to work with, and many were already college-bound but needed a little help with the process.

Gavit scholar athletes Malcolm Lang, Doug Wiggins and Emma Penman said the blueprint class gave them the extra incentive they needed to make sure their college applications shined.

As a defensive end on Gavit's football team, Lang already has been accepted to Indiana State University and Central Michigan University. He's involved in football, wrestling and track.

Gavit's No. 18 Wiggins, also a football player, has been accepted to Bradley University so far. He's applied to nine schools and with a 3.7 grade point average is likely to be accepted to several more.

"This class taught me how to apply for scholarships and how to look for additional colleges outside of the ones that I'm aware of," he said. "At the beginning of my senior year, I didn't know how to find the sources for college money, and I know how to do that now."

Penman has been accepted to the University of Oregon, Indiana University and Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis. She said the class gave her the help she needed in completing the complicated FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form.

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Education reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.