The students and their well-being have always been at the heart of inewsource’s investigation into Gompers Preparatory Academy, and tracking down all graduates appeared to be the next step in advancing this story. To do so, we looked for students in three ways:
First, we downloaded the names of all students who were friends with the Facebook page “Wingspan” – the Gompers college counseling program. Second, we examined the school’s “Director’s Reports,” available from the school website. Third, we dove into social media channels.
Facebook was an essential source. We sent an initial outreach message to 294 people we believed to be alumni. The Director’s Reports don’t give students’ last names, just their first name and last initial, and some names could be similar, so although we crossed referenced names, in some cases it was difficult to confirm if someone had attended Gompers. (Approximately 570 students have graduated from Gompers).
This story is one in a series about Gompers Preparatory Academy.
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Here’s a sample of what we said:
“Hi, I’m Jaz Twersky from inewsource, a San Diego online news organization. Would you be open to talking about your experience as a former Gompers student? I’d really love to hear thoughts from students to gain perspective about the school.”
Sixty-five individuals responded to our message through Facebook. The majority indicated they were aware of inewsource’s previous coverage on the school, and responses were mixed:
“I’m actually very busy studying abroad and don’t have time to dedicate to something irrelevant that is not benefitting me or my education.”
“I have nothing but good things to say about GPA and director Riveroll. If you are looking for me to talk negatively about my high school I won’t do it.”
“Hi, yes I would be willing to share my experience.”
“Why are you so obsessed with a school that serves people of color. You f***** people are always so obsessed with this s***. Why can’t people of color be successful and be left alone. Write a damn article on how the school district does not serve students especially those students that are from marginalized, underserved, black brown and queer communities.”
“Yes I would be happy to, although is it ok if you would let me know what you are writing about?”
“F*** outta here. If you’re so interested in Gompers why don’t you go directly to school site and figure out how Gompers is ran.”
“I’m sorry I don’t think I should but good luck on your story.”
“Hey, yeah that would be a pleasure.”
“I just don’t want to be a part of anything right now. I want to stay out of it. And if you can, please tell all your colleagues to please stop contacting me about the situation. I don’t want to participate at all.”
“Yes I am willing to share my experience at Gompers Prep Academy with you. I don’t see why not.”
“Bro I don’t have time and y’all need to leave my school alone.”
More than half of the students who responded declined to talk to us. A smaller group of students said only that they’d had a positive experience, and out of concern for Gompers, simply wanted inewsource to leave the subject alone. Around a third of the people who responded were open to talking, or even eager. We were able to interview most of the people who expressed interest, although a couple later said that they no longer had time or interest in talking.
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In addition to asking for interviews, we sent out a link to a multi-page survey. Our hope was to gather quantitative data, but in the end, only 17 students responded to the questionnaire – far too few to be statistically significant.
We conducted eight on-the-record interviews, and seven on background, which means that they aren’t quoted by name in our reporting but we used those interviews to inform our understanding of the story.
While a couple of the interviews were in person, most were by phone.
During the interviews, we asked students many questions about their experience at Gompers and their preparation for college. Here are some of the questions we asked:
- What year did you graduate from Gompers?
- What did you do after you graduated from Gompers? If you went to college, are you still there? Did you graduate? If you left college, why did you leave? What are you doing these days?
- How connected do you feel to Gompers?
- Why did you or your family choose to have you attend Gompers?
- How challenging did you find the academics at Gompers?
- How well-prepared did you feel for college? What programs at Gompers were helpful for you?
- Is there anything that you wish Gompers had done?
- What have been the biggest challenges for you transitioning to college?
- What were your interactions like with teachers, administrators, and the director while at Gompers?
- How did you feel about the school uniform?
- Would you recommend Gompers to a friend or sibling, or would you send your child there in the future?
- Is there anything else about your experience at Gompers that I didn’t ask about that you would like to share? (We asked this question of every person, in case we had missed something important to understanding their perspective and experience.)
As students told us more about the school, we also asked more detailed questions about specific programs like after school tutoring, dancing, a college prep class, and the college advising office.
More in the series: