Monday, December 13, 2010
Carol Miller Lieber’s report, Increasing College Access Through School-Based Models of Postsecondary Preparation, Planning, and Support focuses on informing and helping educational leaders and policymakers with proven and effective ways of helping urban learners gain better access to higher education. On a large scale, we as a society create our own opportunities through specific and deliberate public action, which is based on public support. She also articulates the idea that children in urban communities face “roadblocks to college assess, especially for underrepresented students and first generation college goers, present ample evidence that current school-based models of postsecondary preparation, planning, and support provide inadequate and unequal services to their students."
Currently Project Coach is steadily identifying, recruiting and training potential leaders within the North End of Springfield. Our goal is to expose them to various learning opportunities formed by various lesson plans and lessons learned on the playing field. Project Coach is continually brainstorming ideas of how we can help our Blue Shirts attain their dreams of living fulfilling lives.
Project Coach is in the business of developing leaders through sports. It is our BELIEF you cannot be a true leader on the court or field if you are not taking the skill you learn as a coach and transfer those skill set to other areas of life.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Over the past semester, I have seen many of Lieber’s proposed practices played out in the life of Project Coach and our high school coaches. Efrain Lopez, a second year PC coach and Senior at the Springfield Renaissance School, took time after school this week to answer a few of my questions about his path towards college.
Matt Samolewicz: What resources are available at your high school that have helped you to work towards a college education?
Efrain Lopez: I think my school, the Springfield Renaissance School, offers a lot of college-bound help. There is strong academic support, they provide extra help with schoolwork, and even help you to fill out your FAFSA. LGR, Lets Get Ready, a program that goes to a lot of Springfield high schools, also comes to our school and helps us to reach our college goals. Really, Renaissance is like LGR twenty-four-seven. Overall, Renaissance has helped me find colleges that are right for me.
MS: How have they helped you to find colleges that are right for you?
EL: Well, the school and my guidance counselors have helped me to think about my personality and where I might fit. They’ve also helped to point me in the right direction based on what majors I’m interested in. We started by making a list of about thirty colleges and then we narrowed it down to between seven and five colleges.
MS: What colleges are you applying to?
EL: Personally, I am applying to Southern Connecticut in New Haven, University of New Haven, University of Bridgeport, Springfield College, Springfield Technical Community College, and Holyoke Community College. My guidance counselors told me to apply to three kinds of colleges: reach schools, or schools to work forward to, comfort-zone schools, or schools you will most likely get in to, and safety schools, or schools that will definitely accept you.
MS: How has Project Coach helped you worked towards going to college?
EL: Project Coach and it's Thursday’s SAT preparation sessions have helped me to prepare for the SATs and do better in school. Overall, I have learned that I’ll do fine wherever I go to college. Based on my personality I think I will fit in wherever I go. Project Coach has helped me with that and can help a lot of kids who aren’t necessarily comfortable or have strong personalities.
MS: What resources aren’t available to you that you wish were?
EL: None, really. Ever since my Freshman year, Renaissance has been pushing college on me and my peers and it is up to us, the students, to take it seriously. Senior year comes for a lot of people and they go, ‘Oh man, if only I had listened to them!’ It is really a matter of learning to take it seriously. Not everyone in my community has access to the same resources. The resources are there, but you need to look for them. In my opinion, people help people who help themselves. You have to listen and take what is said seriously.
Efrain’s insight helped me to recognize what a college-going culture can do to assist our youth and their college goals. Efrain's experiences at the Springfield Renaissance School and as a member of Project Coach’s team are an account of the support it takes to make a post-secondary education a reality for today’s urban youth.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The visit proceeded much as we had expected; we presented Project Coach; people asked questions; some were interested; some weren't. What we hadn't bargained for was meeting two fascinating characters who would become ingrained in the PC mission for the next year.
Curt's story alone is worth a wealth of blog posts. A much traveled and highly regarded veteran of the US Olympic Committee, who had landed in Western Mass via a multitude of places to pursue his dream of working in higher education. A humble guy who's down-to-earth nature was immediately engaging and endearing. And someone who saw in Project Coach a program that spoke to his own outlook on life and connecting in a meaningful way to his academic pursuits. This chance meeting alone would have made the trip more than worthwhile.
Fast forward all of 24 hours, and the three of us all have an email from this guy Charlie asking what he can do? When can he come down and visit the program? How can he help us? "He'll lose interest when finals hit", we thought. "He'll have had enough when he sees the 'organized chaos' we live in", we said. Not this guy. Not Charlie.
And so a year has passed. And countless PC visits, two big fundraisers organized, and $500+ later, Charlie has become an integral part of the Project Coach team. We've come to love the guy not just for the tremendous work he's done on behalf of Project Coach, but for his personal qualities too; the same humility that drew us to Curt in the first place, the ability to blend in and get to know our kids, and the initiative and motivation that's been such a wonderful asset to our program.
Nothing could have optimized Charlie's enthusiasm more than this past Friday, when along with his fellow WNEC students, he laid on an evening of high-octane fun at the 2nd Annual Kan-Jam fundraiser. In a night that pitted Smith ultimate frisbee players against WNEC's finest (with veteran disc-guru Sam Intrator also making a long awaited comeback), the real winners were Charlie and Project Coach. Or rather Project Coach and Charlie. That's the way he'd want it.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
With one semester of Project Coach under our belts as Red Shirts, it is time to begin thinking about second-semester pursuits. After reading Carol Miller Lieber’s report, Increasing College Access through School-Based Models of Postsecondary Preparation, Planning and Support, I am excitedly toying with a few ideas for how Project Coach can strengthen its college access support. At the beginning of next semester, I will write to update as to which mini-project I wish to pursue. Comments, suggestions, and initial pledges welcome!
1. Develop a scholarship fund for college-bound Blue-Shirt seniors. Lieber cites that Federal Pell grants are capped at $5,000 per student per year and colleges. Students must navigate a complicated system of scholarships and loans in order to make up the difference in tuition costs. First-generation college students need extra support in reaching their college goals, and oftentimes access to additional funds becomes a decisive factor for college enrollment. Project Coach could help alleviate financial obstacles by awarding scholarships for Blue Shirts who have met a set of criteria (participation, essay, involvement with community projects, etc.)
2. Make a postsecondary plan an exit requirement for every graduating Blue Shirt. Liber writes a postsecondary plan “is the most direct route to ensuring that all students have access to the services and support they need.” A postsecondary plan would require Blue Shirts to develop a portfolio throughout the year of college-application materials, including a set number of applications, a completed FAFSA, letters of recommendation, essay, and a back-up plan. Red-Shirts could help Blue Shirts set goals for each of these pieces and help connect the Blue Shirt with additional resources, such as appointments with admissions counselors.
3. Encourage participation in an experiential summer program. Summer programs can be especially powerful in opening the eyes of youth to experiences beyond their current point of reference. From travel-based to outdoor themed programs, youth are able to discover new passions, develop confidence and form friendships beyond their community. Additionally, Lieber writes that “research studies about first-generation college-goers indicate that the students who felt better prepared to take on the demands of college work and adjust to a different way of living were the same students who had more firsthand experiences on college campuses.” Through partnerships with specific programs/colleges, or through targeted fundraising, Project Coach could seek to place interested Blue Shirts in residential summer experiences.
4. Develop grade-specific college readiness curriculum. Project Coach currently assists juniors and seniors with college preparation through SAT tutoring, partnerships with Academic Coaches at partnering high schools, and informal Red Shirt guidance. However, Lieber suggests targeting all grades, 9-12, with specific and measurable college-prep benchmarks. For example, in Lieber’s sample curriculum, freshman students would visit their first college campus and draft an initial resume. Sophomores complete a job application, interview current college students, and begin job shadowing. This curriculum could tie directly to the postsecondary plan/portfolio.
This past Monday the youth coaches at Project Coach were asked to set SMART goals that needed to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Andy Wood, Project Coach director, opened the session by giving an example of the impact of goal setting within his own life. When he was studying at Durham he played on the university's rugby team. Two rugby enthusiasts who were unable to play due to injuries would make detailed spreadsheets of each player's performance after each game. The rugby players ignored the spreadsheets until a new coach came to the team, who asked each player to tell him what they had learned about their performance on the field from these spreadsheets. Based on this information each player made goals that aimed at improving their game. Andy realized that he needed to be making more tackles. He also became aware, by looking at the spreadsheets, that he made the majority of his tackles during the first half of each game. As a result he set SMART goals to become more fit and make more tackles during each game and the rugby team improved as each player strived to fulfill their goals.