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I Have a Dream Foundation's Innovative Strategies Help Students Achieve College Goals
Students from low-income communities often face big obstacles in attending, much less graduating from, college, but organizations nationwide are using innovative strategies to help students achieve their goals.
Some approaches, like espousing the power of high expectations and sending teams of students off to college together, may sound simple on their face. But the results of organizations like the “I Have a Dream” Foundation and The Posse Foundation Inc., both of New York, along with College Track, with headquarters in Oakland, Calif., are anything but ordinary.
All three organizations participated in the Emerging Trends & Innovations in Urban Education Conference, co-hosted by Summit 54 at the Aspen Institute in Colorado in September 2010.
Omar Butler, a site director for College Track, says the big talk in education is the “achievement gap.” But he prefers to think about it as an “opportunity gap.” And when you look at graduation rates in an under-resourced San Francisco community that College Track serves, you can see why.
Bayview-Hunters Point is located in the extreme southeastern part of San Francisco, and includes some of the city’s only remaining affordable housing. In 2008, in one of the community’s high schools, only four African American and six Latino students graduating were eligible to attend a four-year state university. This represented less than 10 percent of the graduating class.
College Track — an after-school, college preparatory program — looks to break that cycle through programming that establishes clearly-defined student goals and expectations in the areas of academic affairs, student life, college affairs and college success.
And it appears to be working.
“If we can keep students in our program past ninth grade,” Butler said, “it is highly likely they will succeed in high school and in College Track.”
College Track has served 700 students. All of its seniors graduate from high school, 95 percent of seniors are admitted to four-year university and 90 percent have either earned or are still pursuing a college degree.