Workshop Allows 2,000 K-12 Students to Take Steps Toward College

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A recent Foundation for Excellent Schools workshop facilitated school-college partnerships that will benefit underserved children in eight Northeastern states. The participants, representing 20 colleges and 40 school districts, will engage in activities through the remainder of the school year that will help students access, prepare for, and succeed in college.

We want to acknowledge their achievement and create pipelines to college for our children. This will be a family reunion and the focus will be on the high school to college transition

More than 2,000 students in elementary through high school in eight Northeastern states will visit college campuses; study mathematics, Shakespeare, and the environment; and learn how to forge a pathway to higher education, thanks to an annual workshop sponsored by Foundation for Excellent Schools (FES).

On January 18-19, 100 educators from 20 colleges and 40 school districts from the New England and Mid-Atlantic states gathered at Jiminy Peak Resort in Hancock, Massachusetts, to create partnership activities that will help underserved children prepare for, access, and succeed in college.

Dr. Roland Holstead, Vice President for Educational Enterprise at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, offered a keynote address that emphasized the importance of students and teachers treating each other with respect, thereby creating an environment of trust. "Real learning transforms lives," said Holstead.

Workshop attendees participated in panel discussions on: Best Practices to Help Children Access and Succeed in College, Diversity Opportunities, and Gender Issues. In the diversity panel, J.W. Wiley of Plattsburgh State University in New York and Martha Swan of Newcomb Central School related their success with diversity programs for students from Newcomb, a small, rural school in New York's Adirondack region. Two best practices panels shared effective strategies, including a partnership between Vermont's Castleton State College and Castleton Elementary School that, among other successes, includes 91 college students who serve as mentors. Officials from Paul Smith's College, Skidmore College, and American International College shared innovative ways to raise the aspirations of secondary school students.

The gender panel offered compelling research on the difference between male and female student learners and corresponding strategies to address these differences. Scot Hoover, a teacher from Millville, New Jersey, told how "The Gentleman's Club" is transforming the lives of males in grades 9-11, most of whom are African American. "We are seeing our most challenging population morphing into leaders. These kids were once planning to drop out of high school. Now they're headed to college," said Hoover.

Panels ended with small-group gatherings to distill ideas learned that could be incorporated into educational strategies at participating schools and colleges. Following the panels, schools identified colleges with which they could develop partnering activities to help their students. Then partners met to plan when and how these activities would be implemented. On day two, during the final workshop session, schools and colleges reported to the entire group on the partnering plans they had developed.

"Hearing creative, committed educators share strategies to help more than 2,000 children get to college was inspirational," said Stephen Light, Associate Dean of Arts & Sciences at Plattsburgh State University.

More than 40 partnership projects will be implemented in the next eight months. Examples include:

  •     Eighteen students from three New York City high schools - Richard R. Green, Marta Valle, and Pelham Prep - will attend a two-week summer program at Williams College known as Urban Scholars. "The focus is on humanities. Students will study Shakespeare and see a live performance. They live in dorms and eat in the dining hall. They are immersed in college," said Phil Smith, Dean of Admission emeritus at Williams College.
  •     In a program titled Grilled on Math, Middlebury College students will travel to Westport Central School in New York to work with middle and high school students. "Our kids pick up on the enthusiasm and energy college kids have for learning," said Dan McCormick, Westport's Director of Guidance.
  •     Connecticut's Hartford Magnet Middle School plans an April celebration of college with Trinity College and University of Connecticut Greater Hartford. Since the first graduates of Hartford Magnet Middle will be heading off to college in the fall of 2007, "We want to acknowledge their achievement and create pipelines to college for our children. This will be a family reunion and the focus will be on the high school to college transition," said Amy Casparino, Hartford Magnet Middle School teacher.

About half the partnering activities involve nearby exchanges, but more than 20 involve a distance between school and college of three to five hours. Manhattan's Richard R. Green High School and Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, created a comprehensive partnership at the workshop that will involve college immersion for Green students who will visit Hartwick. Additionally, Hartwick faculty, admissions officers, and students will spend time on the campus of their new school partner. "The possibilities are totally win-win. Aspirations and awareness are lifted on both campuses," said Donna Johnson, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Hartwick.

"We are committed to becoming America's preeminent organization at creating and strengthening school-college partnerships that help underserved students get to and through college. This workshop is only one of literally hundreds of things we do to help kids," said Rick Dalton, President and CEO of FES.

FES is a national nonprofit organization that partners with public schools in high-need communities to help underserved students prepare for, access, and succeed in college. By encouraging every student to take "One More Step," FES works alongside educators to develop practices that sustain a culture of achievement. Since 1991, FES has helped more than 140,000 students in 25 states improve test scores, earn better grades, graduate from high school, and pursue post-secondary opportunities.

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