Access to and success in postsecondary educational pursuits is an important factor in today’s socioeconomic climate, particularly in the United States. A substantial literature indicates that going to college is associated with significant increases in opportunity, income, career achievement, health, and quality of life. In America, however, unequal access to high quality educational opportunities remains a serious challenge. Decades of research has shown alarming trends in the disproportionality of college access and success according to a child’s socioeconomic class and race. The University of Miami Office of Civic and Community Engagement’s Pathways to Progress program aims to address issues of education inequality by building a college-going culture at historically underperforming and underserved schools in Miami-Dade County.
Pathways to Progress was established in 2011 to promote increased competency in core academic subject areas—History, English, and STEM disciplines—as well as to build and sustain a college-going culture at traditionally underrepresented and historically underperforming Miami-Dade County Public High Schools. There are multiple program components to promote a college-going culture and foster intellectual curiosity. UM History and English majors give specialized lectures in their subject areas and meet with their partner teachers to work on curricular enhancement and discuss core curricula. STEM students perform a series of interactive demonstrations and workshops that are integrated into the science curricula of our partner schools. All students conduct mentoring sessions on the college application process, financial aid, collegiate culture, study habits, and reading and writing skills. In the 2014-2015 academic year, Southridge High School in South Dade will be launching a Nursing Magnet Program to prepare their students for potential careers and education opportunities in this in-demand field. We have partnered with University of Miami’s School of Nursing and Health Studies to place graduate Nursing Education students in the classroom at Southridge to enhance their program and provide educational and career mentorship opportunities for the high school students. Since 2011, over 45 UM students have participated and collectively spent more than 3,000 hours in the classroom, serving more than 1,680 high school students.
In addition to the work done in the classroom, CCE coordinates trips for high school students to visit the University of Miami each year in order to provide an in-depth understanding of the resources available to college students and the importance of getting a college education. Participating students go on a tour of the undergraduate campus, meet with admissions and financial aid officers, and speak with current UM administrators, student scholars and leaders of student organizations about college life. Students also receive information on financial aid opportunities, the college application process, and the benefits of higher education. Since 2012, more than 200 students have participated in the UM visits.
The partnership has been extremely popular with all parties involved. Assessments and evaluations show a high level of satisfaction from the UM students, the high school teachers, and the high school students as well. Below are some of the testimonials from program participants:
Southridge Teacher: “I had [a UM Student] in Creative Writing. She had a very advanced class, and it worked beautifully. She got them to write things that you just wouldn’t believe. She saw things in the students that I didn’t even see. She helped one student write a piece that made everyone’s jaw drop. It was fun to watch the UM students take what they had learned in their college class and apply it in the high school class. Harmonie handled the students so differently than I do. It helped me to see that you can keep them in line while being calm and soft-spoken. Harmonie did a lot to open up their imaginative side. She got them to do really interesting things that I couldn’t do with them. I would think, “Wow! That was in this kid?” Now that she’s left, they want to send her samples of their writing. My students would say later, “Can we do more of what we did with the UM students?” They loved the UM students.”
UM Student Amanda Klafehn: “The experience of working at Southridge significantly impacted my plans for the future. I already knew that I had some interest in education, but it was cursory and mostly based on the fact that I love children and working with children. In doing the partnership I discovered a real passion for sharing my love of literature and learning with students who, often, are only pushed as much as necessary to pass standardized tests, rather than encouraged to discover topics that excite and inspire them. The tenth graders in my class at Southridge were just waiting to be asked for their thoughts, and because I was paired with a wonderful teacher who also truly cares that her students learn something worthwhile in her class, I had a chance to see the fascinating things that come out when they're given the chance to answer. Because of this internship a future in the education sector has become my dream, and I am applying to teaching fellowships in various cities to spend several years doing English or special education in a public school. I hope that in my own classroom other students will decide to answer the question of what makes them think and tick, and that I can be the one to help them carry this revelation into real-world success that changes their futures and communities.”
Southridge High School Students:
“She gave us the courage to retake the SAT and to apply to schools that we might not think we can get into—the courage to make us do more than we thought we could. We worked on resumes, personal statements, and the steps to take to reach our realistic goals.”
“She taught me things that I never even thought about before to get me ready for college.”
“He showed us things we didn’t know. With the Holocaust we talked about the different kinds of evils. He put us in groups and asked us critical questions. We talked about how you need to learn history so we can learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. It really got us thinking, you know?”