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Pathways and Pipelines: Promoting College Readiness and Success in Southeast El Paso County

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Stephanie South

March, 2009. A meeting of the Pikes Peak Community Development (PPCD) Advisory Group, convened by El Pomar Foundation to address and discuss shared concerns of those living in southeast El Paso County. A group of business, civic, and community leaders going back and forth. The economy? Health care? Homelessness? What are the biggest challenges facing the area, and where can the group make a difference?

Fast forward to October, 2011. One hundred-plus high school students and their parents invade Pikes Peak Community College. They attend workshops like What is College? and How to Pay for College. Imagination Celebration hosts the keynote session—Imagine Your Future: Who Are You & Who Do You Want to Be?

This was the answer to those questions posed years earlier come to life. What was the biggest priority and where could they make a difference? Education.

The goal? Get students to college.

 How? Provide resources and support to help high school students from districts 2, 3, 8, and 11; counselors; and families learn more about financial aid, student support services, and post-secondary education opportunities. Additionally, the PPCD Advisory Group wanted to focus on ethnic minority students and military—active duty or retired—families who identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American.

The result? Pathways to College Readiness and Success.

“The target audience [is] those [young people] that are just under the radar and need the most help in understanding the process and what it takes to get connected to post-secondary education,” said George Guerrero, a senior vice president with El Pomar Foundation who is actively involved with the advisory group.

Pathways to College Readiness and Success includes a series of four to five workshops per year to address a range of topics, including: college success, self advocacy, financial literacy, pre-collegiate resources, and retention. These workshops are free to students and families, facilitated by higher education professionals, and occur at post-secondary institutions in the Pikes Peak region. They are tailored for specific grade levels and aim to teach students what they need to know when they need to know it. Participating students are nominated by teachers or counselors at their high schools.

In addition to the workshops, the program creates, designs, and disseminates a comprehensive resource guide to identify programs, organizations, and events that connect youth to post-secondary education. It also provides support to the local Educating Children of Color Summit and encourages all workshop participants to attend the event. The summit seeks to dismantle the cradle-to-prison pipeline for children of color and poverty through education.

Theo Gregory, a senior vice president at El Pomar Foundation who is in charge of overseeing community outreach activities, emphasizes the fact that this is a pilot program dedicated to determining the best way to create a pathway to college through exposure to post-secondary education opportunities.

The program is funded through a  $150,000 grant ($50,000 each year over three years)  from El Pomar Foundation that was recommended by the PPCD Advisory Group . The grant is being used  to design and implement a three-year pilot program in partnership with those already working to address youth education in southeast El Paso County.

“El Pomar’s commitment is for three years,” said Gregory. “Then we will utilize the PPCD Advisory Group’s guidance and insights to make recommendations to the trustees regarding the future of the program.”

The next Pathways to College Readiness and Success session will be held at Colorado College on December 7, 2011. For more information, visit www.elpomar.org/ppcd or call 719.238.8088.

Students engage with post secondary education representatives during the resource fair at Pikes Peak Community College on October 8.