Typically I write my organization profiles based on a questionairre that I send to organizations. Today’s organization responded by writing something that was good enough to post, so enjoy this post by Hannah Balder from College Possible.
Each year, high schools across the United States graduate 200,000 capable low-income students who do not go on to college. These students have the intelligence, the dedication and the desire to get there, but a lack of financial and informational resources as well as cultural barriers keep them from attending college. Consequently, students from upper-income families are ten times more likely to earn a college degree than their lower-income peers. And yet, a college degree is the likeliest pathway out of poverty for a student and his or her family forever and is the surest provider of an educated workforce for our communities. As College Possible™ sees it, this is a crippling injustice to both our students and our nation. Echoing Robert F. Kennedy’s “,” College Possible (formerly Admission Possible) believes that acts against injustice send forth a ripple of hope that can overcome even our biggest challenges.
College Possible aims to create these ripples by providing low-income students with the intensive guidance, resources and support needed to earn college admission and a degree, thus breaking the cycle of poverty for low-income families and building an educated workforce for a globally competitive economy. In after-school sessions, dedicated AmeriCorps volunteers – “coaches” – lead 30-40 low-income students through a two year academic curriculum of ACT and SAT preparation, intensive college application assistance, financial aid consulting, and guidance in the transition to college. Students then receive a continuum of support through their four-year degree completion. Currently, College Possible operates in three locations across the nation: Twin Cities of Minnesota, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Omaha, Nebraska.
Jim McCorkell, College Possible founder and CEO, knows just how important a support system is for college-hopeful low-income students, as he once was one himself. With the support of his parents and a few important teachers and friends, McCorkell earned a scholarship to Carleton College and later earned his earned master’s degrees in political science at University of North Carolina and public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. McCorkell then returned to Minnesota and, applying the cost-effective AmeriCorps model to the issue of college access for the first time, founded the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, College Possible in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2000. In the first year, the program served 2 high schools and 35 students.
Since then, College Possible has grown 250-fold. Currently in 29 partner schools across the nation, College Possible proudly serves nearly 8,700 low-income students, of whom 91% are students of color. But even with this rapid growth, College Possible continues to produce dramatic results: juniors increase their ACT scores by an average of 21%, 98% of College Possible students earn admission to college and nearly 80% of College Possible college students are either continuing to work toward their college degree or have already graduated. A recent Harvard study showed that College Possible more than doubles the chances a low-income student will enroll in a four-year institution. For these top-of-field results, College Possible earned national recognition in 2011 receiving the Elfenworks In Harmony with Hope Award and the Mutual of America Community Partnership Award.
But College Possible is nowhere near finished making ripples. College Possible plans to be in 10 metro areas and serving 20,000 low-income students annually as soon as 2015. Ultimately, however, College Possible is working toward the day when the future of America’s children is determined solely by their talent, motivation and effort rather than their socioeconomic status.
Hannah Balder is the Communications VISTA in the College Possible National office. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in 2011 with a degree in English and Communication, and a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, thrifting, biking, and nourishing her caffeine addiction in coffee shops with friends.