Teachers and Learners: Getting Our Kids to and Through College

From left to right: David Coleman, Jessica Marinaccio, Jeff Ginsburg, Havidán Rodríguez

At East Harlem Tutorial Program, ensuring that college is within arm’s reach of young people is what we do best. After all, over the last five years 95 percent of EHTP students have enrolled in college, and our college scholars are on track to graduate from four-year schools at a rate 8 times the national average for students from low-income households.

We are proud of our results. But as the adage goes, the true teacher is the learner, and we are committed to deepening and sharing our understanding to increase the depth and breadth of our impact. That is why EHTP gathered several national educational leaders to the fifth in our series of educational roundtables to discuss getting students to and through college. And learn we did.

Our panelists – College Board President David Coleman, Columbia’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jessica Marinaccio and SUNY Albany President Havidán Rodríguez – inspired all of us to redouble our efforts, and left us with clear takeaways about supporting, educating and interacting with young scholars:

Increasing Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) is a win-win. The first-year retention rate for students in the program at SUNY Albany exceeds that of first-year students overall, with a full 93% of EOP students staying in college.

Redoubling efforts to reach children early on is critical. By high school, students may be too far behind academically to be college ready. Even more importantly, kids decide early what their futures hold. It’s on us to show them that college can be part of that future.

Examining the impact of culminating tests, such as the SATs, is a must. The tests must be administered fairly and inclusively — and students need to know that they are more than the sum of their scores.

Hosted by EHTP Board Member Billy Rahm at Centerbridge, the event didn’t skirt the obstacles that hold our youth back. Jeff Ginsburg, executive director for EHTP said: “Some things just get in the way: college mismatch, financial difficulties, lacking skills and feelings of isolation for students down to responsibilities that they may still carry.” But, he added, “You see from the data we have that this can be overcome.”

President Rodríguez asserted, “The very first thing we need to do as institutions of higher ed is provide the atmosphere where students come in and thrive, and provide the support mechanisms so that they can succeed.” But he also noted that getting behind students at the college level is too late. “It’s our responsibility to reach down lower in the pipeline so by the time they get to 12th grade they have the basic [skills] in order to succeed in college.”

Dean Marinaccio agrees. “Early access and early intervention is key to a lot of success. There are many studies that show students really determine in middle school who they are going to be. Are they going to be a student? How do they see themselves in this journey of going into higher education?. Education is really the door that opens so many opps and moves entire families to different levels of opportunity.”

And sometimes it is the very tools created to attract a diverse student pool that leave some young people on the sidelines. “For too many kids they see a low SAT score as a veto in their life,” said David Coleman. “There are lots of ways to show your excellence.”

How do we help overcome this gap? Each panelist emphasized the importance of mentors and role models who can be change agents in young people’s lives. The discussion ended with a rallying cry for deeper partnerships with community-based organizations. “Places like EHTP are essential in the ecosystem,” said Coleman, who added that one thing is clear:

“What does not work is us working on our own.”

Posted in: EHTP News

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