Friday, December 28, 2012

Poor Students Experience a Unique Blend of Barriers in their Pursuit of Higher Education and the American Dream

Grace Outreach College Prep students from one of our Bronx Opportunity Network cohorts outside the admissions office at Bronx Community College, July 2011.

Last week, The New York Times published a must-read article that delves into the struggles that young adults from low-income families face in their pursuit of higher education and a better life. The Times points out that while education should act as a ladder to lift people from poverty and narrow the achievement gap, the unique barrage of barriers that many low-income young people face when accessing higher education is actually acting to reinforce class divides and stymie access to the American Dream for the least advantaged members of our population.

For so many of New York City's young people, this story is an all-too-familiar one. Even the brightest students who excel in high school face many hurdles as they attempt to access and navigate the college system. In NYC, the majority of students who enroll in a CUNY community college will not attain a degree.  The hurdles these students face are myriad, and include having little to no social safety net to turn to for support and guidance, family and relationship troubles, crushing student loan debt, and the need to work multiple jobs to support themselves and/or their families while in school. 

Fortunatly, JobsFirstNYC is partnering with organizations in the City to create partnerships that support these very young people. One great example in the Bronx Opportunity Network (BON), a workforce collaborative funded and supported by JobsFirst

Launched in July 2011, the BON is a group of leading community-based organizations (CBO) that have developed a comprehensive borough-based approach to supporting disconnected youth in post-secondary education. The Network’s mission is to enable under-prepared Bronx students to improve their academic skills, overcome personal barriers, enroll in and complete college.  The BON is an attempt to improve their prospects by collectively improving practice in community-based organizations.  It presents participating organizations with the opportunity to intensify their own efforts, collectively benefit from a best practice model around those efforts, and to speak with a united voice when in conversation with community colleges about effective educational practices that would help our students to be more successful.  The collective voice of these community organizations engaged in common effort acts as a strong support to improved services for our students and better outcomes for their passage into college.


In the spring of 2012, the majority of students enrolled in the BON completed their first-year of college, and 62% of these students enrolled in the Fall 2012 semester. Additionally, the BON brought on board a second cohort of 105 students during an intensive 2012 summer bridge program. 

The important progress the BON is making--and the positive affect it is having on the lives on low-income students from the Bronx--was recently recognized by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a case study in their 2012 Kids Count policy report. Read more about the BON on page 8 of their report: "In the South Bronx: A Pathway to Success".



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