The statistics aren’t too promising. Of the 2.8 million kids who enter college every year, about 50% won’t graduate in six years. And for minority kids, the numbers are more grim: only 44% of Hispanics and 39% of black students who enroll in college will walk out with a degree. When you consider that college graduates earn about 81% more than high school graduates–about $1 million more in a lifetime –that’s a sorely missed opportunity for the student, their families, and for society as a whole.
But those numbers do not apply if the folks at Southwestern College have anything to say about it…and they do. This small college of 1,900 students about 40 miles from Wichita, Kansas has initiated innovative programs to keep its minority students enrolled –resulting in an impressive African-American graduation rate of 63%. At the same time, the college is reaching back into the pipeline to help minority and low-income students in the area begin to prepare for college — starting with a very big carrot. In 2007, President Merriman made a promise to the inner-city students of Stucky Middle School in Wichita: if they maintained a B average throughout high school, they would be admitted to Southwestern, and given a 4-year scholarship of $25,000.
Meanwhile, Southwestern Vice-President of Student Life Dr. Dawn Pleas-Bailey is working to change hearts and minds as well. Preparing for college, applying, and trying to figure out how to pay for it is a herculean endeavor for even the most affluent families — which is why there is an entire industry devoted to improving rich kids’ SAT scores, winnowing down their college choices, and primping & padding their resumes. But low-income kids are often left on their own, with parents who never went to college, an over-worked school guidance counselor, and no experience of ever having set foot on a college campus. So Southwestern is breaking down those barriers with a summer academic camp on the college’s campus, monthly visits by Stucky students to the college, and an active mentoring program that links Southwestern college kids with Stucky students throughout the year.
The transformation has been amazing. Middle schoolers learn to visualize themselves as college students, ask questions and engage in the classroom, navigate a college campus, and understand that it’s cool to be smart. High school AVID students spend three days at Southwestern living in residence halls and working with advisers, mentors and educators to create an implementation plan for completing their senior year and going through the college admissions process. And the Black and Brown Summit hosts promising Hispanic and African-American young men in academic and leadership workshops to show them they can succeed at college.
The cost of these workshops? For the participants, it’s free. And because the college supports the work, Dawn is able to run a camp for 40 kids for a mere $7,000. What a superb investment! When you think of what some parents are spending to get their privileged kids into the college of their choice, this opportunity to support the hopes and dreams of 40 promising kids in Kansas is really irresistible. I’m in!
To join me, click here (and in comments, please indicate you are giving to the Stucky Camps Fund).