Early Beginnings: Community Colleges Plant the Seed with Middle School Students

Early Beginnings: Community Colleges Plant the Seed with Middle School Students
Community colleges welcome students from all ages, even those as young as middle schoolers! Learn about the programs made possible by the College Access Challenge Grant in bringing middle school students to community college campuses.

President Obama wants to see more young Americans heading to college after high school, and he has started the wheels turning to make that happen. According to a report at DelawareOnline, Vice President Joe Biden recently announced President Obama's plan to boost community college completion to 50 percent by 2020. The president has also issued additional funding to community colleges to help them meet this goal. Some schools are taking a new approach to boost enrollment and completion in community colleges – by inspiring students to higher education before they even reach high school. This article will take a look at the way some community colleges across the country are sparking student interest in college earlier than ever before

Delaware Inspires Middle Schools

When President Obama increased national funding for the federal College Access Challenge Grant, it meant more money for the community colleges in Delaware. The schools in the state decided to use some of that extra money to fund a middle school program that brings eighth-grade students onto the community college campus for tours and information. The students learn about the various academic programs available, as well as financial aid options.

The program aims to get students interested in college at a younger age so they succeed in high school and move to a community college right after graduation. The program primarily targets areas of the state with high percentages of potential first-generation college students and single-parent homes.

Judi Coffield, policy analyst for the state board of education, told DelawareOnline, "This is an effort to get students thinking about college early on and the rigor of what they'd have to do to go to college. It helps them explore places they can obtain that education, and what will be the time and the money needed to get that education…It also takes away some of the fear and intimidation factors, just having been there."

This video shows a talk that inspires students to develop and achieve academic goals.

Middle School Students Weigh Career Options in North Carolina

In North Carolina, students at Overhills Middle School are getting an early opportunity to consider some of the career options facing them after high school – if they first attend one of the programs at a community college in their area. According to a report on the Central Carolina Community College website, students from Overhills recently toured the school's Harnett County Campus to look at some of the careers for which this college prepares its students.

Students explored fields like welding, computer technology, and cosmetology with professors from the school who offered demonstrations and information about the training needed and the income levels offered through these various career options. The assistant principal of Overhills Middle School, David Frazier, told the community college website that the tours were good for students because they were at an age when many were beginning to contemplate their futures.

Students were given information about training, salary expectations, the type of work involved, and the employment opportunities in each field. The hope is that students who find a career that looks interesting to them will be motivated to do well in high school so they can continue their training in a community college like CCCC after graduation. Students saw specific tools of the trade and heard about students who graduated from the school and went on to successful careers in the industries of their choice.

This motivational video encourages students to be all they can be.

Eighth Graders Preparing for College in Auburn

Washington is a state grappling with a startling 30-percent dropout rate among high school students in some districts. School officials addressed the problem head-on by introducing middle school students to the possibilities that await them if they make it through high school and move on to college after graduation. According to a report in the Auburn Reporter, students and staff from local colleges got together to encourage students in Auburn, Kent, and Highline school districts to take charge of their high school experience to get the future education they need to succeed in life.

Janet Holm, one of the event's coordinators, told the Auburn Reporter that the Exploration Day was mostly about "getting to these students before they give up on high school."

Ruthie Schindler, the outreach manager for Pierce College District, agreed. She told the Reporter, "This is an opportunity for the kids to be on a college campus to explore how the colleges are laid out, to talk to different college representatives about programs and to educate them about the two-year and the four-year process."

Schindler was playing the "Money Game" with students in her workshop. She gave the students play money, which they had to stretch to meet their expenses. The students also discovered that the further they went with their education, the more play money they would receive to pay their bills.

This video encourages students in middle school to attend college.

Many students in high school today don't finish school because they can't see beyond the immediate years of their high school struggles. However, students who do not perform well or even drop out during this time of life have a much lower chance of receiving any higher education that can take them further down the career path. These community colleges and school districts have done more than identify the problem; they have worked out solutions to raise high school graduation and college enrollment rates. By appealing to students at an even younger age, they can instill in them a desire to succeed in their academic endeavors before they become frustrated and lose hope during their difficult high school years. In fact, if you are interested in programs for your middle school child, take advantage of summer programs and courses at community colleges specifically for adolescents!

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