Student Spotlight: Teresa's 2017 Graduation Speech, Quinsigamond Community College

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

We finally did it! Can we give ourselves one more big round of applause? I look around this room and see so many strong and amazing individuals. Gateway gave us all the chance to show the world – and those who wrote us off as failures and drop outs – that we are so much more. I started Gateway when I had just turned 16. I still remember orientation; I was so scared. I had no idea what I was about to walk into. I sat down at the table with everyone else, and from there my adventure began.


Gateway became my home, and all of you and those before some of you became my family. We all work together, eat together and even take naps in the halls together. The three wonderful women who run this program will always hold a special place in our hearts: Marci, Jenna, Vanessa and now Glenda. You ladies help us know we can do so much more. You encouraged us, gave us tough love when needed, but most importantly you believed in all of us.
Everyone comes to Gateway for different reasons. Look around this room and everyone here has a different past and different struggles, but what we all have in common is we wanted more out of our situation. For me, I'm here because I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that causes me to be in pain every day for the rest of my life. My illness stopped me from attending school, being with friends and doing anything that I enjoyed. I thought my life was over. I knew that I couldn't just sit around and let this pain ruin my future, so my mom helped me make that first step and here I am now. I graduated from both high school and college, and I’m only 18.


For whatever reason you’re here, be proud of yourself for making that first step and everything that followed. A quote from Robert Frost that I’ve always held dear in my heart states, "Accept no one's definition of your life. Define yourself." Through Gateway I have found myself. I have made lifelong friendships, memories that I hope will last me a lifetime, and opportunities I never thought I would get.


I have been in Gateway for almost three years and in that time so much has happened. For those who haven't been here as long, I hope Gateway changed your life for the better as it did mine. I would like to thank my mom and dad for always being there for me and supporting me. You guys are truly the best. I'd like to thank Marci for her passion and dedication.


Marci, you work hard to make sure everything runs smoothly and we all have what we need to be successful. Thank you for that. I then want to thank Jenna for her kind heart yet tough love. Jenna, you have listened to me, and I’m sure all of us at one point, complain about something going wrong or when things are hard. You always know what to do and show us to do it for ourselves. You have made a difference in my life, and I would like to thank you for that. Vanessa, I miss you so much!! I would like to say thank you for always being there when emotions ran high or low. You are a beautiful person who also has impacted my life. From all of our office conversation and laughs, you helped me through a lot. Glenda, I may have never truly got to know you, but from what I hear you are doing a great job. Thank you for all you do. Lastly I would like to thank all of you graduates. You have made my Gateway experience amazing. I am so thankful to have met all of you.


Congratulations class of 2017, we did it!!!

GtCNN Hosts Jobs and Career Fair for PCC Gateway Students

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Oregon’s unemployment rate is at a record low 3.5%, and the state economy is performing well. For 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in school, however, the unemployment rate in Oregon is 12.8%. For each of these “Opportunity Youth”, the direct cost to taxpayers (government spending on crime, health care, and welfare, as well as loss in tax revenue) is $13,900 each year. A 2015 report from the Cowan Institute details this. With 58,000 Opportunity Youth statewide, the cost to Oregon taxpayers is around $815 million a year.


On May 5, 2017, Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) hosted our first Jobs and Career Fair, for students in the Gateway to College program at Portland Community College. While technically not Opportunity Youth, the students in the Gateway program were at one point out of school or in danger of dropping out. The fair was conceived and developed in partnership with a team from Leadership Portland, an initiative of the Portland Business Alliance. At the fair, nearly 75 Gateway to College students met with representatives from 23 Portland-area companies to talk about job, internship, and mentorship opportunities, as well as information on careers and career pathways. More than 15 students were able to directly apply to jobs at the fair.


In providing a dual enrollment opportunity and wraparound support, Gateway to College offers students a second chance at success. The Jobs and Career Fair will further ensure that these students will contribute to the economic strength of Oregon. More importantly, the interest and engagement among employers who attended the fair showed these students that their community believes in them.

In large part because of the success of the May 5 fair, GtCNN is now beginning discussions with regional partners to hold a significantly larger jobs fair in 2018 for all Opportunity Youth in our region. In Portland, 16.1% of 16 to 24-year-olds are out of school and not working, the 8th highest rate among the largest 50 cities in the country. Portland-area employers need a pipeline of workers, and its young people need jobs and pathways to careers. GtCNN envisions next year’s Jobs and Career Fair to offer a focus on specific job opportunities, and to help prepare students for a future job search (via resume and cover letter preparation, practice interviews, etc.) and careers.


GtCNN sends heartfelt thanks to the following organizations and individuals who contributed to the May Jobs and Career Fair:


Leadership Portland Team
John Ducker, Columbia Sportswear
Waleed R. Sadruddin, Kaiser Permanente
Steve Lesky, Cambia Health Solutions
Ian Christy, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP
Christine Vrontakis, SAIF Corporation
Kindra Skrydlak, Pacific Continental Bank
GtCNN Jobs and Career Fair Companies:
Neil Kelly Company
Portland State University
Airway Science for Kids, Inc.
Umpqua Bank
US Bank
BankWork$/SE Works
Moda Health
Oregon Health & Science University
Kaiser Permanente
SAIF Corporation
Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP
Silicon Forest Electronics
Cornell Pump
Oregon Story Board
Transportation Security Administration
Columbia Sportswear
Portland Parks and Recreation
Salt & Straw
Food Front Cooperative


GtCNN Announces Request for Applications to Launch Three New Gateway Programs

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Gateway to College National Network is proud to announce a Request for Applications (RFA) for a new round of funding and technical assistance to launch three new Gateway to College programs in New England. Gateway to College is an innovative early college program based on partnerships between colleges and K-12 school districts. Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) invites applications from colleges, school districts, and charter schools across New England to replicate the program, beginning to serve students in fall of 2018.


Early college and similar dual enrollment partnerships are increasingly being recognized across the region as excellent strategies to increase college readiness and postsecondary matriculation for first-generation and low-income students. And, at the same time, many communities and states have established priorities to re-engage disconnected or ‘opportunity’ youth.[1] As these two key movements gain traction in New England, GtCNN is eager to assist new communities address both priorities with one effective, sustainable program model.


Mount Wachusett Community College (Gardner, Mass.) launched the first New England-based Gateway to College program in 2006 and since that time, the program has expanded statewide, providing the only early college option to out-of-school and off-track high school students in the region. Currently , six communities in Massachusetts offer the Gateway to College program as an opportunity for struggling school students to return to education through a college-based program. However, with more than 160,000 disconnected youth in New England, additional programs are needed.


Thanks to generous support from the Barr Foundation, GtCNN is poised to double the number of communities in New England offering this program by 2018. Through this application, communities will receive $150,000 in funding for planning and initial program start-up costs as well as no-cost training, coaching, and technical assistance from GtCNN during an 18-month planning and implementation period.


Gateway to College programs, once they are serving students, are sustainable through local partnerships, leveraging K-12 per-pupil funding and the facilities of postsecondary institutions to deliver supportive, high-quality, alternative pathways to young people who are unlikely to achieve success in traditional high schools.


Applications are due June 30 and information about the RFA, supplemental materials, and upcoming webinars can be found at


About Gateway to College National Network

GtCNN is a national college-based dual enrollment program for off-track and out-of-school youth. A national organization that designs and supports programs and initiatives aimed at building pathways for disconnected youth to earn a high school diploma and meaningful college credential, GtCNN is the national leader in bridging the aspiration and attainment gap for our most vulnerable young people.


Gateway to College New England

With the addition of a Gateway program at Roger Williams University in Providence RI and at North Shore Community College in 2017, Gateway to College in New England will serve more than 600 students in eight communities: Brockton (Massasoit Community College); Central Massachusetts (Mount Wachusett Community College and Quinsigamond Community College); the South Coast (Bristol Community College, Fall River); the Pioneer Valley (Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical College)

[1] Opportunity youth are young people between the ages of 16 and 25 who are neither in school nor working.

Annual Report 2016: ReConnect Oregon, a fundraiser supporting GtCNN

Friday, April 07, 2017


GtCNN’s inaugural fundraiser brought together community leaders, Gateway ambassadors, and alumni to support the important work we do in Oregon, raising nearly $40,000 toward our mission.



In Oregon, GtCNN’s home state, the graduation rate is one of the lowest in the nation. This sobering statistic leaves many Oregonians wondering what works to reengage students and how we can ensure all students are graduating prepared for college and career. Re:Connect Oregon, GtCNN’s inaugural fundraiser, served as an introduction to one existing strategy for reengaging students left behind in our education system. Our core program, Gateway to College, has reengaged thousands of students in Oregon through a partnership between Portland Community College and surrounding school districts, and has been replicated in communities across the country.


“For every $100 raised, Gateway to College can raise an additional $1100 in public support,” GtCNN President Emily Froimson said.


President Froimson addressed the education challenges Oregon faces, sharing that students from low-income families graduate at a much lower rate than their peers. Gateway to College and the PCC-based PDX Bridge program aim to serve Oregon’s most vulnerable youth.


Throughout our brief history, Gateway to College has been able to expand and grow because of the dedicated work and service of so many individuals. The board chose to establish the GtCNN Distinguished Leader Award as a way to recognize one of those leaders each year. Nan Poppe, GtCNN board member, recognized Laurel Dukehart, GtCNN’s former president and founder, as the inaugural recipient of the award. Glenn Fee announced the Ambassador Award winner, Jay Schmidt of Silicon Forest Electronics, for his continued support and commitment to GtCNN.


Three alumni shared their stories during the event, reminding the audience of the direct impact of Gateway’s work. Alexander, a Gateway graduate of 2015 and Ambassador Council member, was encouraged to apply to the program by a neighbor who happened to work for Gateway. It was through the encouragement and support he received from this mentor that compelled him to mentor other young people.


Erikka Potts, Gateway graduate of 2014, currently serves on the steering committee for GtCNN’s collaborative initiative PDX Bridge, a program serving youth who have experienced homelessness, the justice system, or foster care. As a foster youth herself, Erikka is passionate about giving back to her “foster care brothers and sisters” to help them pursue education. Her own education was derailed due to substance abuse in her family; through Gateway to College, she found the supports needed to finish her high school diploma and get into college.


Keynote speaker Kendra Johnson graduated Gateway to College at PCC in 2003 and has been pursuing education regardless of personal and academic obstacles ever since. Upon graduation from Gateway, Kendra enrolled in the University of Oregon, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Family and Human Services. She continued her education at the University of Portland, receiving a Master of Social Work degree. Kendra is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, a community service organization led by African American college-educated women that is continually leading effective advocacy and social change for equality and equity for all. She currently serves the Portland area as Director of Youth and Family Services at Impact Northwest. It was her experience in Gateway where she found a community of support to overcome challenges, and she called for more support for the program so other young people can find their path.


“As you heard from those three incredible Gateway Graduates, there is no single type of student who becomes disconnected to their education,” said Richard Greensted, Gateway Ambassador. “For some, their school environment is not safe. For others, family obligations make it difficult to attend school. Sometimes, a school just isn’t a good fit, and there are few alternatives.”


Richard made a personal financial commitment to the organization, before encouraging fellow event attendees to raise their paddles in support of our work. We are so thankful for the support of our sponsors and donors in making this first fundraiser a success.


Sponsors: Alaska Airlines, Huron Consulting, Kaiser Permanente, Northwest Bank, Silicon Forest Electronics, Umpqua Bank


Our next Re:Connect Oregon event will be held on November 3rd, 2017. To learn about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Hanna Lounsbury, Development and Events Coordinator, at 971-634-1527.


Annual Report 2016: Peer Learning Conference

Friday, April 07, 2017

Program directors shared the strategies that helped them improve outcomes during a panel at GtCNN’s 2016 Peer Learning Conference.


Continual improvement is at the core of the Gateway to College model, and the biennial Peer Learning Conference serves to celebrate achievements and develop new ways to improve our program nationwide. The 11th Peer Learning Conference on July 27 - 29th at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis brought together program and national staff with a particular focus on the theme of “Gateway to College and Career Readiness.”


In 2016, GtCNN redeveloped the Gateway Program Success (GPS) initiative to create an easily implemented program improvement plan. The initiative set outcome benchmarks in four areas: First-term success, fall-to-fall persistence, two-year persistence, and three-year graduation rate.

On day one of the conference, GtCNN President Emily Froimson commended our programs' strengths and stressed the importance of our work, while reminding those present of our need to continue our improvement efforts.

"We are part of a social justice movement aimed at closing the achievement gap and creating opportunity for those without hope," President Froimson said to the crowd. "While education alone won't solve the problem of inequity in our country, we know that education is a necessary part of the solution. So that means that, collectively, we can and we must do more."

While examples of success exist throughout the network, six programs were recognized for their achievements. Camden County College, Holyoke Community College, and Mount Wachusett Community College exceeded all GPS benchmarks; and Bristol Community College, Front Range Community College, and Pueblo Community College exceeded the graduation benchmark.


A panel of program directors from the award-winning programs shared what they’ve done to achieve strong outcomes.


“To the kids, we say: You’ve got to show up and do your work and be nice,” Vivian Ostrowski, director at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts, said. “Our philosophy with them is relentless kindness, with both of those words being equally important: relentless kindness.”


Jeanelle Soto-Quintana, director at Pueblo Community College in Colorado, consistently referred to her students as her family. “They have a primary resource specialist, but everybody else is extended. Extended family: That means that we’re teaching and role-modeling for our students how to love and be compassionate with each other.”


Dr. Irvin Sweeney at Camden County College, in Camden, New Jersey, said his team needed to understand the community in which they worked. “We had to understand that we were operating in a community where success was defined by your young people as not having a problem with the law by the age of 18, by not being shot; the young ladies not being pregnant,” he said. To serve their unique community, they built a strong administrative team and worked closely with alumni, parents, members from the college, and other stakeholders to advise and advocate for their program.


For many, using and understanding student data was key to improving outcomes.


“Be married to your data,” said Jeanelle. “Review it. Don’t be afraid of it. What are your weaknesses and how can you change?” After reviewing outcome data, Jeanelle’s team went through curriculum realignment with their college, improving the relevance of their high school courses and building stronger relationships with college professors. “Just be married to the success, not the idea of that activity. Review that data, and be willing to change.”


Beyond their suggestions, the directors’ genuine passion for the work shone through as the foundation of a successful Gateway program. Whether it was through relentless kindness, intrusive advising, or family-style support, the remarkable perseverance Gateway students possess is matched only by the professionals that support them.


Gateway Student Profile: David

Thursday, April 06, 2017

David Thain is a Gateway to College student at Riverside City College in Riverside, California. 


David loves parables and analogies. During our conversation, he brought up the story of Icarus as an illustration of missed opportunity. And he compared education to water: in order for water to be useful, you need to know how to utilize it, not merely that it exists. David says that when he was young he couldn’t wait to grow up. Now, with newfound curiosity, he wants to take advantage of his educational opportunities to learn as much as he can. After he finishes the Gateway to College program at Riverside Community College, David plans to complete his general requisite credits at Riverside before transferring to UC Berkeley to study environmental engineering, chemistry, or linguistics.


Not long ago, David’s outlook on education was very different. He started kindergarten normally but, by the end of grade school, he was getting into fights. In middle school, things became more difficult and he no longer wanted to attend school. David started ditching, drinking, and hanging out with the wrong people. These activities pulled him away from an “I can do it” mentality. Throughout 8th grade and freshman year, David didn’t leave the house. He spent his days watching anime instead. In sophomore year he started school again but stopped caring after one month. This manifested into skipping half days and eventually ditching the entire school day with friends. During all of this, David was going through major changes in his home life. His mother died when he was fourteen. His brother became involved in gangs, and his father moved the family to a new neighborhood for a fresh start. For those closest to David, education was regarded as an obligation, not as an opportunity. Growing up, he knew that he was expected to complete school, but he did not see this happening with everyone around him.


By senior year, David didn’t know how he was going to complete high school. There was a requirement of 225 credits to graduate and he had earned 10. One day his counselor, Mr. Estes, mentioned Gateway to College. David was immediately interested because of the chance to attend college classes. At Gateway, David slid into his old habit of procrastination until, after three months, he was given an ultimatum: complete two units by the original due date. In most cases, it takes two weeks to complete two units worth of work. David was given a single day to finish. This ultimatum marked a turning point for him. David completed the assignment on time and began to understand something that he had not at traditional high schools: “If I don’t figure out how to learn to the best of my ability, then I won’t learn."


David credits Gateway with teaching him a sense of responsibility; he enjoys the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies a finished assignment or task. This makes him recognize and appreciate his power. At traditional schools David felt that he was merely given a pen and paper and then blended in with a bunch of other students. In contrast, he feels welcome at Gateway to College and likes that he is treated as an adult. Counselors’ doors at Gateway are always open to him: “If something is upsetting, they take the time to sit with me, understand my level, and explain things”. After joining the Gateway to College community, David learned that he is not the only one who has struggled with school, lost a parent, and rejected opportunities. David knows that his past is often misunderstood, but he also knows that his community of support has helped him and taught him to better represent himself. One of the biggest lessons that he’s learned is that, before doing something, you need to imagine yourself doing it. David imagines himself working in the sciences, and likens his own transformational experience to terraformation of planets. After completing his degree in a scientific field, terraform machines may transition from a metaphor for life into his future career.



Gateway to College National Network announces Stephanie Davolos as New England Regional Director

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Contact: Glenn Fee



PORTLAND, Ore., March 21, 2017 – Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) is pleased to announce that Stephanie Davolos has been selected as its New England Regional Director. Ms. Davolos most recently worked at Holyoke Public Schools, where she served as Chief of Staff to the State Receiver (State-appointed Superintendent). Prior to HPS, she served for eight years as Executive Director to The Sizer School, a grade 7-12 charter “Essential School” in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and was the first Massachusetts Regional Director for Citizen Schools, a national network of extended-learning programs.


In her role as Regional Director, Ms. Davolos will work closely with New England Gateway to College programs to develop additional partnerships in the region and support programs to strengthen student outcomes. Recently, GtCNN announced the launch of two new Gateway to College programs in New England. North Shore Community College (NSCC) in Danvers, Massachusetts, and Roger Williams University (RWU) in Providence, Rhode Island, are the first of six new programs that will begin over the next five years, with support from Boston’s Barr Foundation. The two new programs bring the total number of Gateway to College programs to 39 nationally, with programs operating in 21 states.


“With a regionally-based director, GtCNN will accelerate our efforts to reengage off-track and out-of-school youth, ensuring more vulnerable students have a pathway to postsecondary success,” stated Emily Froimson, President of GtCNN. “GtCNN is fortunate to have found in Stephanie someone with a deep commitment to educational equity and high quality programming.”


The two new programs will join six Massachusetts programs that are already providing a pathway to high school graduation and a meaningful postsecondary credential for vulnerable youth across the state. Bristol Community College plays host this week to the Gateway to College National Network’s New England new program kickoff where leaders from Roger Williams and North Shore will join colleagues for a two-day new program training as they prepare to enroll students in Gateway to College programs in the fall. The kickoff will position these community partners to create a pathway for students in collaboration with public high schools in their communities.


About Gateway to College National Network

Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) supports communities in building sustainable pathways for disconnected youth to a high school diploma and meaningful college credential. GtCNN’s core strategy is to support and replicate Gateway to College programs around the country. Through Gateway to College, students who have dropped out of high school, or are significantly off track, complete their high school diplomas at college-based programs while simultaneously earning credits toward a postsecondary credential., @gtcnn

Gateway to Career builds partnerships, steers students to meaningful careers

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Despite a strong economic recovery, business leaders in communities around the country have expressed concern about a skills gap among high school and college graduates. Secondary education leaders in many places have strengthened their Career and Technical Education programs, and community colleges are offering stackable credentials in fields such as coding. For many Gateway to College students, simply graduating high school with college credits is a remarkable accomplishment. For these students to take the next step in discovering a career that is meaningful to their families and communities, we believe that a more intentional connection is necessary.

Gateway to Career is an ambitious project that GtCNN has launched in seven communities around the country. The project, which is supported through funding from Strada Education, will connect opportunity youth to career planning, preparation, experience, and placement. The beginning of Phase 1, which wraps up this summer, conducts landscape analyses in each community. The analyses will determine available resources, career preparation programs, internship, mentorship, and job opportunities, and the capacity of each program. The overarching goal of this project is to improve the career readiness of Gateway to College students by the time they graduate.


In the latter stage of Phase I, we will convene with Gateway to College program staff and local stakeholders for a strategic planning session that will develop action plans for each community. The action plans will vary across communities, but they will share the common goal of connecting Gateway to College youth to effective career programming. The action plans will include measurable results using WIOA’s (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) 14 youth program elements as a guiding roadmap.


Phase II of Gateway to Career will consist of launching the action plans in each community. The plans will leverage existing resources and funded programs, and connect Gateway youth to those resources. In select cities, we will be adapting Gateway to College services to enrich career programming, pathway design, and job experiences. The action plans will include sustainability measures that include discovering additional funding streams allotted to support opportunity youth in career programming.


The colleges and communities included in the Gateway to Career initiative include Portland Community College, Spokane Falls Community College, City College of Philadelphia, Camden County College, Madison Area Technical College, Riverside City College and Christel House/Ivy Tech Community College. By working to develop relationships where stakeholders in each community defines what’s important, GtCNN believes that we can place our young people on a pathway to a meaningful postsecondary credential and career.


PDX Bridge Student Profile: Desi

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Desi is a junior at Helensview High School and part of the first cohort of students in the PDX Bridge program. She is 17-years-old and on track to graduate this spring – one year early. Although she is doing quite well in school these days, Desi’s educational goals and expectations have changed dramatically over the last few years. Throughout middle school and her first year of high school, Desi was uninterested in her education. In a large school, it was very easy for her to skip class without anyone noticing, and she often did just that. As a result of judgement that she felt from others, Desi became discouraged and lost confidence in her abilities. In her words, she didn’t allow herself to shine.



In her sophomore year of high school, this outlook changed when she began attending a smaller school where she felt seen and supported. Teachers and people around her were very supportive and Desi started to believe in herself again. From there she skyrocketed and began wanting more; once she realized that she could do well in school, she found that she wanted to try harder. She asked family members and people in her school to hold her to her newfound expectations and to keeping pushing her in the best way that they could.


When her college success coach, Geoffrey Garner, told her about the PDX Bridge, Desi was excited. “It’s free and I can get college credit while still in high school? Who wouldn’t take this?!” Desi signed up for the program right away. Desi responded with a resounding “Absolutely!” when asked if her involvement in PDX Bridge has changed her outlook on education. Although initially nervous about starting her college career, she now feels confident in her ability to be a successful college student.


Desi credits PDX Bridge for its unique offering to youth who are affected by poverty, homelessness, and otherwise rough backgrounds. “These are usually the kids who the general populace doesn’t expect to do this kind of thing.” The homework load is kept at a manageable level for students who are still in high school, and instructors are willing to work with the students’ individual needs. Desi has been promoting PDX Bridge to anyone who would listen, including her teachers, principal, and other students. Not only has it been great for her, she has seen how helpful it is for other students.


Desi’s plans for the next few years include the start of her college career. She is excited to take the opportunity in college to explore her interests and potential future careers. On March 15 at Noon, Desi will join two fellow PDX Bridge students at GtCNN’s Gateway Gathering to share the story of her educational journey. Register for the event and join us for what promises to be an inspirational Gateway Gathering!


Five Questions with GtCNN: Andy Dorsey

Monday, February 20, 2017


What systematic reforms are needed to ensure all students receive the individual supports they need to complete high school ready for postsecondary education or training?



That’s a good question with no easy answers. The good news is that high school graduation rates nationally have been steadily increasing, so many districts are clearly taking positive steps.


I’d like to see a renewed focus on career-technical education and apprenticeships that connect students with careers earlier. For some students, more practical, hands-on learning, especially in a work setting, would be much more meaningful than classroom time. I was lucky enough to travel to Switzerland last year with Colorado Governor Hickenlooper and a delegation of business leaders. We saw more than 20 apprenticeship sites and learned how the Swiss have used apprenticeships to provide support and career pathways to students at all levels of academic achievement.


I also think that project-based learning has a lot of possibilities to engage students. Northglenn High School (Adams 12 School District) in Colorado has had tremendous success restructuring to a STEM academy built on project-based curriculum. Graduation and post-secondary success rates have changed measurably by that shift in focus.


Northglenn is one of two high schools (Skyline High in Longmont, St. Vrain School District is the other) where Front Range is a partner in a PTECH (Pathways in Technology Earth College High School) high school. This is a promising model, as it incorporates a corporate partner who can help make education relevant. IBM is our partner in Longmont, and Level III Communication is our partner in Northglenn. Early findings are that the program, which was begun by IBM, is helping potentially disconnected youth graduate with meaningful credentials.


We can also do a better job aligning high school and college curriculum and providing more focused concurrent enrollment pathways. Right now concurrent enrollment offerings are often too haphazard and uncoordinated with students’ career goals.


I am encouraged that Front Range partners with several districts that have enhanced their focus on CTE and are considering apprenticeships and concurrent enrollment opportunities.


What is the most effective way for higher education and K-12 to work together to support the success of disconnected youth?



Programs like Gateway to College are one of the best ways; they have a proven track record and provide youth a path to a college credential. But more generally, we need to make school relevant for disconnected youth, we need to provide different learning settings and environments (since many were not successful in comprehensive high schools and are not likely to fit in with younger students), and we need to recognize that these students often need more intensive and perhaps intrusive support.



What is the value of dual enrollment for young people and for their communities?



Dual enrollment provides many benefits to students: early exposure to college in a supportive environment, reduced time to college graduation, and decreased cost of a college degree. For some students, dual enrollment is an opportunity to discover that they actually can master college material, and it can inspire them to attend college when they might not otherwise do so. For others, it helps them stay engaged in high school by giving them challenge and purpose. And for others, it is the only way they can afford a college degree.



College access has been receiving considerable attention in recent years. What are the biggest hurdles that remain in this area?



The data on access is striking – young people from the top income quintile are at least 10 times more likely to earn a college degree than those from the bottom income quintile. Part of the difference is college going rates, but a big part is college success rates. Higher income students succeed at much higher rates, more than double the rates even controlling for SAT scores. Probably the biggest hurdle is the lack of appropriate support services - social, financial, and academic - for low-income students. We are increasingly learning that opening the doors for access, as community colleges have done for years, is not enough. Some of the national work on guided pathways offers promise for how to address some of these barriers.



What advice would you give to civic and state leaders who want to take more of a role in addressing high school graduation and college completion rates?



I would suggest they study successful programs nationally; there are several good models in Colorado alone. In particular, I think they should visit Gateway to College programs! But, more generally, I think we also need to talk more about completion to what end? Leaders need to focus on how the world of work is changing and whether our programs are really giving students the skills they need to succeed. Just getting a high school diploma by cranking out some work in an online setting might earn a student their credential, but may not prepare them for the accelerating pace of change in the work world. The same is true of college completion efforts. We need to do a better job of matching student interests to careers, and in providing them information about how they can match their talents and interests to the world of work. I am not sure our goal should be to produce more psychology majors (not to pick on psychology, as I used to teach psychology) who haven’t thought about the applications of their degrees.


Two other thoughts. First, more completion will take at least some additional resources if the completions are to be meaningful. We can certainly get better at using the resources we have, but the college completion programs that are the most successful provide higher touch (and thus more costly) interactions with students. Second, there are a whole host of policy issues that need to get addressed in some states. Innovative programs sometimes can’t operate within traditional models. We may need to think differently.





Andy Dorsey is president of Front Range Community College in Colorado, and a member of the GtCNN Board of Directors.




Partner Login