Helping Low-Income, First Generation Students Attend and Succeed Through College Life
Release Date: 4/21/2020
From campus closures to virtual learning, to the emotional toll of these uncertain times, it would be difficult to overstate the impact of COVID-19 on our scholars and alumni. There was certainly no playbook for organizations supporting students through these unprecedented circumstances, but we’ve been inspired to see so many rise to the challenge to keep their students on track.
Dallas, TX – With the national emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic, college students’ lives have been upended as they have been asked to leave campus and adjust to new living situations. The loss of campus jobs and the closing of cafeterias, the need to travel home, and the transition from in-person to online learning platforms are among the many concerns our alumni are now trying to navigate. 100% of our graduates were accepted to college and 78% of those will be the first in their family to attend college. Uplift Education has a goal of 70% of its alumni to earn a college degree within six years. Currently, 55% of Uplift graduates are meeting that target which is 4X the state college graduation rate.
While mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is necessary, the closing of college campuses leaves many first generation students, particularly those with an intersectional low-income identity, with difficult decisions to make. Many of these students may not have permanent residences to return to, may face transportation issues and/ or food insecurity, and may be concerned about losing their income from campus or local employment.
The Uplift Road To College & Career (RTCC) team has been working tirelessly to connect ALL of our network’s alumni to the resources they need during this trying time. Uplift has offered some families an airline ticket to get their child home safely, helped with storage of materials, and provided emotional support as our alumni work through this challenging time. We’ve also been leaning on our partnerships with several post-secondary institutions, both in and out of state, to understand what resources they are offering students in order to communicate those relief opportunities with our alumni. We have also connected some our students with financial resources so they can connect online to their courses at college when they didn’t have any way to do that. We’ve had the greatest response rate to communication we’ve ever seen from our students. Even those who don’t always need our help are answering the phone to say, “Hey, I really appreciate this call.”
The network also launched an alumni job board to facilitate the employment search of any current or former student during this time and is offering career coaching for this group.
We have been supporting our campus teams and giving them guidance on how to work virtually with our students through college and financial aid choices. Our college counselors are working directly with each senior and doing one-on-one virtual calls for each of our current students. During this time, they are working to provide information to help students understand college choices and make informed decisions regarding their future.
To ensure our current students and their families have up-to-date information to help them navigate their college and career journey in the wake of COVID-19, our RTCC Family Engagement team has created a new podcast. Since the launch, we have given updates on the International Baccalaureate Program and will be giving updates on financial aid, college matriculation, and financial planning. In addition, we will also be continuing our Parent Connect learning series for our families to help them understand what resources are available to them as well as provide a platform for them to connect with other Uplift families.
Under normal circumstances, we love to host social events on campus, so we’ve been looking for ways to translate that to the current situation. We’ve begun hosting social gatherings on Zoom, playing fun games like “Guess the Celebrity,” or Zoom bingo with students contributing words like “college” or “alumni success counselor,” or, of course, “toilet paper.” “We’ll be hosting several Zoom get-togethers throughout the month to help students stay connected and have some fun,” said Daniel Gray, Senior Director of RTCC.
As we move forward, Uplift Education’s Road To College & Career Department is learning about how to support students with creativity and flexibility. We are dedicated to being proactive in addressing our families’ needs and establishing new ways to learn and communicate that are beginning to feel more familiar to us all.
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Uplift Education is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the lives of teachers, families, and, most importantly, students. With a network of 43 college preparatory, public charter schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Uplift offers students of any background the powerful chance to study within a multidisciplinary curriculum and prepare for the college career they deserve. Uplift is the largest International Baccalaureate district in Texas and the #2 IB district in the nation because of the number of holistic extracurricular and educational programs. The incredible educators in the Uplift network guide and teach nearly 20,000 students in Pre-K- 12th grades, with the majority being low-income and minority students who will be the first in their family to attend college. For more information Uplift’s mission and their blind lottery selection system, visit uplifteducation.org or facebook.com/uplifteducation.
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