Preparing to Break Through Barriers to College

December 6, 2010 at 8:53 am 1 comment

“Breaking Barriers Through Success”, a learning project for students at the East Austin College Prep Academy, explores the common reasons why children in East Austin have not historically attended college and identifies techniques to overcome those barriers.

Class in front of Motivation Wall

A class in front of their Motivation Wall

Sponsored in part by State Farm Youth Advisory Board, the project encourages open conversation with students about a college education and reinforces that it is an opportunity available to them regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status. These conversations create an understanding among the students that their desire to access higher education and the potential barriers affecting a young person’s ability to attend college are common among their peers.

This year, the students’ first activities were to learn the language around issues of accessibility and barriers to a college education. This was intended to provide students with the ability to talk about what they would be exploring through community interviews, peer interviews, and presentations. Armed with a set of questions, students interviewed people in their community to learn the community’s views about whether children in East Austin should aspire to go to college, why or why not, and reasons that some would not succeed in attending college or would drop out of school altogether. Students talked with their interviewee about his or her own educational history and reasons they either pursued a college education or did not.

Many students interviewed family members and learned about their parents’ private struggles.  They shared these stories in class so all the children could benefit from each family’s experience. Students described lack of parental support, facing cultural views about a woman’s role in the family, or needing to leave school at young ages to work and help support the family.  Students were able to hear about successes, as well, stories of family members who attended a trade school and returned to college later in life; stories of those who did have parental support, and found ways to pay to go to college.

Part of Motivation Wall

A message on the Motivation Wall

They learned that having family or peer support, access to financial support, being engaged in what they are learning at school, and making personal choices can help them accomplish their goals. Students then began to explore ways to combat these barriers by identifying their own motivations to attend college, speaking with young people who had overcome similar barriers, participating in monthly community service projects, and developing materials and techniques to support their peers with the goal of attending college.

These students are preparing themselves for the challenges that may face them in the future – all to support their goals of attending college.

– Narissa Johnson
Ext. Communications Manager
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Entry filed under: Community Service, East Austin, East Austin Children's Promise, EAustin College Prep Academy, Education.

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