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Boys & Girls Club partners with local colleges

Even though public education is perhaps the most important “opportunity equalizer” in this nation, it doesn’t always work as well as it should.

Students who grow up in poverty have to overcome more hurdles on the way to higher education than better-off students. The same is true for students who come from families in which no one has been to college.

A recent report from the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships says that, among low-income students who took the ACT college-entrance exam, 95 percent said they wanted to pursue higher education, but only 59 percent of them enrolled in college right after high school. Among ACT-takers overall, 71 percent go to college right after high school.

Financial resources are obviously a problem for low-income students, but sometimes they also lack the proper academic preparation. According to the report, only 69 percent of students from low-income families who took the ACT had completed the recommended college-preparation curriculum, compared with 84 percent of students from high-income families.

Another indicator of lack of preparation: Only 20 percent of low-income students met at least three of four college-readiness benchmarks, compared with 62 percent of students from high-income families. The benchmarks are based on ACT subject-area tests.

Thankfully, a program at the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha aims to fill some of the gaps in students’ preparation. The program, known as the University of Excellence, combines academics, life skills and leadership.

The Boys & Girls Club had 24 students enrolled in the program last year and the club is planning to expand the after-school program. Students take core classes and choose from a selection of electives. The courses cover life goals, skills, character and leadership as well as academics and Boys & Girls Club actiivities.

The aim, one of the club’s directors said, is to put the students on the right path to be able to go to college.

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside has offered guaranteed acceptance to students who complete the program and have a 2.5 cumulative grade point average, even if they don’t meet the college standard on the ACT test.

Carthage College and Parkside will offer scholarships to a few students in the program each year.

This is an important step for the colleges and the club in recognizing — and trying to close — the gaps in preparation for low-income students and first-generation-in-college students. Often those students can’t get this kind of preparation at home, because no one at home knows anything about what it takes to be accepted by a college or to succeed in college.

Economic development experts tell us that Wisconsin needs to produce more college graduates. One of the ways to do it is to make sure more students are ready for college when they graduate from high school.

Kudos to the Boys & Girls Club, UW-Parkside and Carthage for providing this expansion of educational opportunity in Kenosha.

Source: Kenosha News