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When education meets encouragement

How many schools in urban areas go beyond the call of the average school and encourage their students to pursue higher forms of education? Schools in such areas are notorious for lower graduation rates and even lower numbers of students who continue to college, tech schools or vocational schools. This is rational due to the fact that these areas are usually lower income, crime-ridden and run-down. So the question becomes, do middle and high schools in these areas do enough to encourage their students to strive for more?

Stewart Middle School in Norristown has put effort into the well-being of their students through programs like an on-site garden and student trips to Cabrini to urge their students to consider some sort of post-graduate schooling. They have developed an affiliation with Cabrini for both these programs so students realize that additional schooling is actually a possibility for them.

There are schools in other “bad” areas that attempt this same feat and offer programs for this purpose, but there is still a gap recognizable to the students themselves that more can be done. Priorities differ from school to school and where higher education lies is not always towards the top of the list. In a society where the most successful is often judged on the degree you hold, the opportunities students from these areas hold are certainly fewer.

Many students are often discouraged from college primarily because of financial reasons. Many students have admitted that they wish their teachers and counselors had offered more information on financial aid. In addition to this, many colleges don’t make it any easier for these students who jump through the hoops of applying for schools.

In applying for colleges during high school, it is all about deadlines. Deadlines for applications, financial aid, housing; the list goes on. In schools that don’t advertise these deadlines and promote their assistance, it is difficult for students to understand the application process and some give up on the procedure entirely.

It is clear that these programs and affiliations are advantageous in many students’ decisions to move on to higher forms of education. It is therefore only logical to see that these efforts need greater priority in the schools they are found in and crucial that they be implemented in the schools that they’re absent in.

Most low-income students from urban high schools hope and plan to go to college. And based on the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis (CHEPA) survey results, “77 percent value a career that requires a college education, 80 percent want to learn about things that interest them and 82 percent want to be able to earn more money.”

There are many actions these schools can take to improve what they’re doing in the way of encouragement to continue schooling. Stewart Middle School established relations with Cabrini so that the students tour the school and experience what the school offers both in terms of academics and activities and social aspects. The students from Cabrini who are also participating in their gardening program talk to the students about the advantages of higher learning.

These small engagements do more for the students than just expand their relations, they offer the knowledge and support the students need to aspire to be more and do greater than they thought possible.

You do not need to go to extraordinary odds to help others do extraordinary things.

CHEPA’s  six challenges related to the process of applying to college:

1. Students in part make college-related decisions based on their perceptions of financial aid availability.

2. A high school’s culture of preparation makes a difference in students’ access to college and financial aid-related information.

3. Students need accurate and timely information about college and financial aid.

4. Group seminars on financial aid information can be helpful in concert with follow-up sessions, but cannot supplant one-on-one support and counseling.

5. Even after applying for college and financial aid, many students require individualized, sustained support throughout the process.

6. Parents require information and knowledge about college and financial aid.

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