Over the last two years, COVID-19 has deeply impacted students across America, specifically exacerbating existing disparities faced by low-income students and students of color. Black and Latinx communities in the United States have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic, from health and finances to education. Then, in 2021, Fundación MAPFRE made a deep investment in closing the degree divide in Massachusetts. What does this mean?

In the United States, only 22% of students from low-income communities earn a postsecondary degree (or any degree obtained after secondary school), compared to 67% of their peers from highincome areas. In Massachusetts, 64% of low-income students enter college, and only 18% of those students are expected to complete their degrees within six years. While the degree divide has persisted, postsecondary credentials have become increasingly essential to accessing economic opportunities and social mobility. Over a lifetime, high school graduates who do not attend college will earn as much as $900,000 less than their peers who receive a bachelor’s degree. And in the midst of the global pandemic, the challenges that high school students faced grew. One Massachusetts survey showed that nearly one-quarter of high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors changed their postsecondary plans or were planning to do so, either postponing attendance or putting aside college altogether.

This is the degree divide: an injustice that has remained largely unchanged in the past several decades, and has become more critical to address since March 2020.

That’s why Fundación MAPFRE is working with OneGoal on its mission to close the degree divide. OneGoal is dedicated to supporting more low-income students, students of color, and first-generation college students on their paths to postsecondary success. OneGoal knows these students are talented and ambitious, but they face a combination of economic, social, and academic barriers that make college nearly unattainable. OneGoal employs a bold and straightforward solution: redesign the traditional school day to make rigorous, affirming postsecondary planning and support a part of the high schoolto- college experience.

According to OneGoal CEO Melissa Connelly, “Our students are up against incredible barriers that require innovation. Our approach and collaboration with our partner schools helps us to illuminate pathways for students who need it the most. We are committed to our students’ success and deeply believe that every young person deserves an equitable opportunity to achieve their greatest postsecondary aspirations.”

OneGoal is partnering with Fundación MAPFRE and MAPFRE USA to achieve this goal in Massachusetts.

After a year of partnering with Southbridge High School in Southbridge, MA, OneGoal was introduced to Linda Johnson, AVP of Corporate Social Responsibility at MAPFRE. She saw their success and saw the potential a OneGoal partnership with Bartlett High School in Webster, MA could have. Johnson connected Webster Public Schools with OneGoal, which led to the partnership with Fundación MAPFRE. The resulting statewide partnership has thus far impacted hundreds of junior- and seniorlevel students.

“I was so glad to be able to connect these groups to each other,” said Johnson. “One of our core principles at MAPFRE is equity, and it was clear to see how this value was shared by our partners. We’re proud to support the work of these groups.”

Johnson worked closely with OneGoal and Dr. Ruthann Goguen, Superintendent for Webster Public Schools, to ensure the program’s success. Dr. Goguen noted that “We are beyond thrilled to have our first cohort of students in the OneGoal program graduating this year. These students are all heading to college and each have been able to explain how this three-year program guided them to see their own possibilities and navigate the college application process. Many in this cohort were accepted to multiple colleges and they received scholarships!”

Students become OneGoal Fellows leading up to their junior year of high school, which marks the beginning of a critical transition period between high school and college. Throughout their junior and senior years, cohorts of Fellows engage together in a daily, credit-bearing course taught by Program Directors (PDs): experienced high school teachers trained in the OneGoal curriculum who work with Fellows on their postsecondary plans.

“As supporters, volunteers and conveners, Fundación MAPFRE and MAPFRE USA are model partners for us in this work,” said Amanda Hillman Seider, Executive Director of OneGoal Massachusetts. “In every school, there are students who have the drive and desire to be successful in postsecondary education but may lack the opportunity. I’m so grateful to our partners in Webster and Bartlett High School for working with us to serve their students and to Fundación MAPFRE for supporting our work to close the degree divide across the state.”

During the first two years of the program, PDs help students understand and expand their college options, learn about the college application and enrollment process and develop the necessary academic, social, and financial foundations for success in college. In Year Three, PDs continue to provide support to Fellows in their first postsecondary years via in-depth, one-on-one coaching.

One student at Bartlett High School said her OneGoal experience “helped me see the potential in myself and find my passions. We worked on understanding our strengths and weaknesses by using our identities. Using my identity, I was able to pick a major that fit me, the schools in my price range, the locations of my schools, and the diversity of the schools. With these tools I was able to create a list with colleges I didn’t even know existed. Before this program, I had no idea where I would be headed after high school — but now I have a plan.”

The OneGoal Program uses a culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) framework for teaching and training grounded in social justice, equity and multicultural education. With this, OneGoal students develop the strength and resilience that see them through adversity.

“I am genuinely beyond grateful that OneGoal was brought to Bartlett High School because I don’t think I would have applied to colleges or written my essay if it weren’t for [Bartlett teacher and OneGoal Program Director] Mr. Carney,” said a senior Fellow in Webster. “I have now been accepted to five colleges, including ones I wouldn’t have applied to without this support. When I received [my college acceptances], I felt a sense of relief and accomplishment. I have no doubt in my mind that extra push from OneGoal and Mr. Carney got me where I am today.”

The results have been powerful. This year, OneGoal Massachusetts is working with over 700 students across the state. For last year’s graduates, 70% seamlessly enrolled into a postsecondary institution, outpacing their peers statewide by 23%. At Bartlett High School, OneGoal seniors have already received 30 college acceptance letters this year.

“OneGoal came here last year, thanks to the hard work from the district administration and support from Fundación MAPFRE to help students realize their dreams and fulfill their life’s goals after high school,” said Peter Carney, Bartlett High School teacher and OneGoal Program Director. “This program targets students who may not realize that college is an option for them. Now every student enrolled in this class has been accepted into multiple colleges. Their future is looking bright.”

MAPFRE’s partnership — and impact — with OneGoal doesn’t end there. In order to keep students connected in the early days of the pandemic, volunteers from MAPFRE’s US team worked with OneGoal to launch a “Postsecondary Experience Index”, a resource that houses a list of colleges and universities in Massachusetts with links to the personal experiences of working professionals who attended those colleges. OneGoal also partnered with MAPFRE to contribute to a library of videos recorded by local professionals telling the stories of their college and career journeys for students. MAPFRE also helped OneGoal’s mission gain exposure by hosting OneGoal staff members on its podcast dedicated to local organizations making a difference.

OneGoal knows that together, we go further. The unique relationship between MAPFRE, Webster Public Schools, and OneGoal has helped solidify a college-going culture at Bartlett High School. As we look to celebrate the first graduation of OneGoal seniors in Webster this June, this group is ready for what comes next. Partnerships like this one are how we will move closer to closing the degree divide in towns across the state and the country.