Our vision is to bring “College and Career Readiness” to life. It is no secret that our current public education system is not consistently and equitably preparing our students for life after high school. However, as former teachers and education advocates, we do not believe this reality is due to a lack of care, effort or desire among those in the education space. Instead, we believe that we learn best through experience – and our students should experience colleges, careers and other post-secondary opportunities in order to see what the world has to offer and how education is an essential piece of that puzzle. Our aim is to bring this spirit together with traditional public high schools in order to work towards a set of solutions that are effective, affordable, and scalable.
Quality of schools, teachers, resources, and content are what create academic achievement. However, as many of us who had success in the traditional education system can attest, there are also a lot of “unwritten” rules to play by if you hope to be successful long-term. Building relationships with teachers, finding summer opportunities, doing well on tests like the ACT/SAT, getting involved in your school outside of the classroom, even maintaining consistently high expectations – all of these things are critical to developing a student’s skills and perspective while enabling them to further standout from their peers when looking at colleges or careers.
But most of these things that are necessary to success are never taught and are only available to students from more affluent or educated backgrounds. The content and partnerships we create are meant to embed these previously “unwritten rules” into the formal educational experience, ensuring that every student will have an equal opportunity regardless of where they grow up.
The priority of our organization is to serve students and schools from historically underserved backgrounds, which we define as students of color and/or from low socioeconomic circumstances. At present, it is impossible to untangle these two compounding factors that often make achievement more difficult for so many in our schools. Any student of any background is welcome to join our program if they attend a participating school – we would never discriminate against students nor turn away those who demonstrate clear and consistent initiative. However, our priority will remain targeting those communities where our work could create the greatest complementary impact to the work that already exists in that area.
As of the 2016-2017 school year, we will be serving ~100 students by year’s end, including our first two cohorts of young women. Currently, we operate in the Metro-Atlanta area in partnership with Benjamin Banneker HS, Creekside HS, Booker T. Washington HS, and D.M. Therrell HS.
There is no greater influencer and support in a child’s life than their parents, guardians, or family members that take care of them day in and day out. We communicate with parents every week via text message, provide monthly overview summaries of our upcoming activities, and have annual family events in addition to end-of-year celebrations for our cohorts. Any and all family members are also welcome to join our cohorts at any session, trip or event if they would like. Gradually, we hope to increase our engagement with parents in order to continue to create more relevant and impactful content and partnerships to support our students and schools.
No, we are an education organization that specializes in youth development, which we believe must be a fundamental element of any great education system. Mentoring can be an effective and transformational experience and we incorporate mentoring through our cohorts where students are supported by their peers, a local undergraduate, and their teacher coach. However, we do not match students up with individual mentors, although those relationships have formed organically in some instances.
Collaboration is the name of the game. Since our founding, we have been adamant about not wanting to “reinvent the wheel” – the non-profit space is already overcrowded and will never have enough resources according to some. However, we firmly believe that in order to truly solve social issues, like educational inequity in our case, we must apply both business and collaborative principles to our work. Solutions must be effective, affordable, and scalable or at least make use of existing best practices. So many of our social challenges today have been around for decades, which means that we need new ways of organizing ourselves if we hope to now achieve different, lasting results.
Over the course of the year, students participate in trips to a variety of different private industries, non-profit organizations, service events, and college campuses. Additionally, some of our students also participate in regular community service with local elementary schools. Our goal is to provide as holistic of an experience as possible – one that includes both community companies and those throughout the city, STEM fields as well as those powered by backgrounds in the humanities, private universities as well as community or technical colleges and the military – creating a real picture of what the world has to offer.
Our programs are predicated upon getting students exposed to content, people, and experiences that will broaden their worlds and equip them to achieve great things. As an individual, you can volunteer at a single session or event or become a dedicated volunteer at one of our schools. If you are representing a company or organization, you can work with us to provide students with another opportunity for exposure to what you do and why you do it. We are also looking for more companies or organizations to become dedicated partners at one of our school sites – we create the content, provide opportunities for employee engagement, and run logistics and you and your colleagues share your expertise and backgrounds – that’s it. Please fill out our Get Involved form to contact us and learn more.
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