The PLUG 4 Connection
The PLUG 4 Connection Inspires Students to Believe in the College Dream

The PLUG 4 Connection seeks out students who need help, guidance, and encouragement to pursue a college education or, in some cases, assistance in finding the career options that best suit their skills and interests. In short, “The PLUG” is about looking at each student in order to help them realize their full potential after they graduate from high school. Naturally, that includes tutoring in school subjects, and ACT and SAT preparation.

The PLUG goes above and beyond all these services, even to inspiring them to consider a career in medicine. But it’s all about the individual student in the end. It is that approach, and the robust programs of this our latest small grant recipient, that made us sit up and take note. We put some questions to The PLUG 4 Connection Executive Director Renee Green to find out more about this work:

Kars4Kids: Can you tell us something about your community and the students you serve? What is your demographic?

Renee Green: The PLUG serves high school students and their families that have a desire to receive support with attaining their post-secondary goals. While The PLUG does not make any requirements for participation in our programs, we focus our efforts on supporting Title I schools in the Orange County School District. We are particularly interested in walking alongside minority students and families, families that identify as having low socioeconomic status or students of immigrant parents who might be first-generation college students.

The PLUG students

Kars4Kids: The PLUG 4 Connection is an “education service.” But some of what you do involves career guidance. Does that mean that not all the students are college-bound?

Renee Green: The vast majority of our students are college-bound, however, there is a small number of students who are looking for guidance as they make decisions to enter the military, trade school, or other post-secondary options. Understanding that college is not the post-secondary path for all students, we encourage students to pursue options that align with their career goals, values, skills, and interests. With career guidance from the PLUG, students receive resources to guide them in identifying their career fit and the steps needed to reach that specific career goal.

Kars4Kids: You offer a “student-focused learning environment.” Tell us about that. Is this different than the learning environment typically found in the classroom?

Renee Green: One of the unique things about our program is that students are offered one-on-one guidance by visiting with me. These one-on-one sessions help us to know what each student needs. Some students need extra help with their personal statements; others need more test prep; while others need to focus on scholarship opportunities. Whatever the need is, we strive to meet it. For The PLUG, “student-focused” means that the student comes before anything else. We seek to provide students with authentic interactions and exposure that allow them to realize their potential and resources available to them.

Kars4Kids: ACT and SAT prep is big part of what you do, correct? How does this work—is it virtual or in person? Is there one-on-one tutoring? How often do the students meet for this purpose, and how long are the sessions?

Renee Green: Yes! SAT and ACT prep is the largest program that we have. We typically hold test sessions virtually and plan them around an SAT and ACT in the fall and spring semesters. Each session lasts 4 weeks and is held for 2 hours each week. Students meet virtually with a skilled tutor who uses practice exams to mimic testing situations and talk them through skills and strategies to be successful. A majority of our students have experienced a significant increase in their test scores, making them eligible for Bright Futures and more competitive for college admissions.

Kars4Kids: The PLUG 4 Connection, Inc. offers tutoring in reading and math for elementary school students. How many students are you working with at present? How does it work? It’s free, right? Are your tutors volunteering their time?

Renee Green: Yes. We are currently working with 20 students in grades 3 to 5. This is a completely free service. Nothing that The PLUG provides costs money to our students or families. For this program we have hired a certified teacher who was just awarded teacher of the year in her district. She spends 30 minutes a session, twice a week, with students, and helps them to master the grade standards in math and reading. These are virtual sessions and students have seen great success because of them, especially in the aftermath of the loss of learning from COVID.

Kars4Kids: What can you tell us about your College Conversations program?

Renee Green: College Conversations is a program we started a few years ago. We typically conduct it during the second half of the summer. This series is exactly what the name suggests, conversations about topics important to students starting their college journey. Each conversation focuses on one aspect of that process. We cover such topics as making your college list, completing the Common App, writing your personal statement, and applying for financial aid and scholarships. These are focused conversations where parents and students can engage, learn, and ask questions.

Kars4Kids: You have a program called “P.L.U.G.” What does P.L.U.G. stand for? What is this program about?

Renee Green: “P.L.U.G.” stands for Preparing Leaders for Unparalleled Growth. This is a cohort of select 11th and 12th grade students. These students have demonstrated a need for assistance as well as a commitment to working hard to achieve their goals. The students are automatically enrolled in all our programs and receive personal counseling through their final 2 years of high school.

Kars4Kids: The PLUG offers “future physicians mentoring.” We’d love to hear about that. Is it about awakening a desire to study medicine? Who are the mentors?

Renee Green: This is a new program this year. In partnership with the University of Central Florida (UCF) School of Medicine, we have paired high school students interested in medicine with pre-med undergraduate students and medical students, in mentoring relationships. These groups meet monthly and discuss predetermined topics as well as address the questions and concerns of our high school students. We are currently working on setting up a tour of the UCF College of Medicine.

future physicians mentoring The PLUG 4 Connection

Kars4Kids: Your newsletters describe events with guest presenters from with local universities. How does this work?

Renee Green: When possible we love to invite guest speakers to talk to our students. We are so appreciative when we can make this happen. In the fall of 2023, we were able to hold an in-person ACT prep session, but before the session, we did one hour of college application support with an admissions officer from Florida State University (FSU). This was a valuable opportunity to hear directly from someone who works in admissions at a very desirable school what schools are looking for. She was a great resource and volunteered her time to talk to our students and answer their questions. We even had the students work on their Common App during that time so that they could have real-time assistance in completing their applications.

Kars4Kids: You offer information about various scholarships. Is it difficult for students to navigate the process of getting scholarships? Do you help guide them through the process?

Renee Green: Yes! Scholarships and financial aid can be overwhelming. We find that students don’t know where to begin on their own. The PLUG does the research for them. We post scholarships on our websites, add them to our newsletters, and send them directly to our P.L.U.G. cohort students. When we work individually with a student we can also guide them directly to scholarships that would be best for them. The PLUG also awards our own scholarships each year to a small number of participants.

Kars4Kids: What’s next for The PLUG 4 Connection?

Renee Green: The PLUG is going to keep doing the work of seeking to find those students who need us. We are going to keep believing in our students and forging partnerships that benefit our participants. We don’t want any student to forego post-secondary experiences because they are overwhelmed with the process. We have had participants who didn’t know that they were competitive for top universities; thought they could not afford college; or did not have the test scores to get into their dream schools. Our programs have helped these same students attain the scores needed to be competitive; guided them through applying to top universities; helped them attain full ride financial opportunities; and bolstered their belief that their dreams were possible. We know that giving our students varied experiences to learn about opportunities for education and career paths is the key to exposing their minds to what is possible for them.

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