Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable (PCPR) Conference Review

Posted by on September 06, 2012

-By Eden Kainer

The PHENND K-16 Team had the pleasure of attending the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable professional conference on August 20-21 hosted by Drexel University.  It was a chance for us to delve more deeply into topics surrounding the issue of college access for underserved students and to network with those working directly with kids in and out of schools. This theme of going beyond the baseline of knowledge in the college access arena was mirrored by the number of panels and workshops during those two days that centered on closing preparation gaps and supporting retention, as well as the pervasive emphasis on the students’ need to develop both cognitive and non-cognitive skills to make their college tenure successful.

We know that it is no longer enough to just help underserved kids get into college, though this work of course must continue…

We must also ensure that we are helping students make college choices that are good for them financially, academically and psychologically. We must make sure that the students have the right tools to stay in school, finish with a degree and move on in their professional lives. Our conference host, Drexel, is indeed well aware of this and members of Drexel’s faculty and administration described the several programs they have in place to address this issue in one of the first plenary panels. Their programs, which happen either in the bridge summer or in the first year, are targeted to students with either low grades or specific deficiencies in math, spend time on strengthening students’ cognitive skills, but also work to develop more intangible but necessary skills such as time management, setting long-term goals, working in groups and relationship building.

For the smaller sessions, there were a potpourri of workshops from which to choose, including those about motivating kids in STEM, encouraging the traits that determine success in college, changes in immigration laws, using social media to enhance your programs and tips on grant-writing.

We attended three workshops in particular that PHENNDies who didn’t make it to the conference might want to find out more about. For those Out-of School-Time program directors interested in promoting STEM, Dr. Jamie Bracie from Temple described an innovative program called MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) that she has helped develop through Temple’s Department of Engineering. MESA is the only STEM initiative that is dedicated to introducing students to a genuine variety of scientific careers and increasing underrepresented minorities in those fields. She argued very strongly for drawing students into STEM through their interests, and gave a nice example of teens learning programming and design by creating their own iphone applications. Becoming a MESA school does not involve a huge financial commitment, but one must complete a Principal Agreement form, recruit a MESA coach (ACT 48 credit is available), host 20 students 2x a week in a MESA club, and be able to input grades and PSSA scores. To get more information about getting MESA at your school or program, and/or a principal agreement form, contact  Dr. Bracie directly at [email protected]

Jennifer Cardoso from Philadelphia Academies presented the College Success Rubric, which includes ten traits that are necessary for a college student to have in order be successful in college. These traits included Responsibility, Task Precision, Expectations (high standards), Wellness, Time Management, Developing and Managing a Support Network, School Involvement, Academic Integrity and Cultural Competence. We spent time discussing each of these traits and shared specific ideas we could use to bolster these traits in our students. If you would like a copy of the College Success Rubric, and to get some practical ideas on activities or workshops that you could do that address developing those ten traits for college success, please contact Jennifer Cardoso directly at [email protected]

Lastly, and presumably this would be of vital interest to everyone on our Update, was a lively presentation by Donna Frisby Greenwood on successful grant-writing. She broke down the different kinds of grantor organizations for us, including giving insider details on family foundations, as she herself is from the Knight Family Foundation and for which she reads hundreds of grant applications a year. She described how each kind of organization has very different application process and set of expectations. No matter to whom you are applying for funding, Donna especially stressed the importance of having a strong evaluation component to measure the success of your program. She recommended that you look to an outside organization to help you develop a useful tool that will have real meaning for funders. She also emphasized that grant applicants need to look very carefully into the eligibility requirements before starting to apply, keep the writing jargon-free, proofread, not use words like “hope” and “believe,” but rather focus on what you will do, answering all the questions and honoring the submission deadline. If you would like a copy of her PowerPoint, or would like to  contact her, her email is [email protected].

Finally, we got to hear from Greg Darneider, the US Department of Education’s Senior Advisor on the College Success Initiative, who left us with some inspirational words about the importance of this work in college access for economically disadvantaged students, connecting it to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and his first work in college access at the Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago. He stressed that there was a great deal of important information you could get on the Department of Education website and that if you had a concern about funding, lack thereof, or about any education legislation issues, he urged us to contact him directly at the Department of Education at [email protected] or even Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, at [email protected]
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>

More in "K-16 Partnerships"

Stay Current in Philly's Higher Education and Nonprofit Sector

We compile a weekly email with local events, resources, national conferences, calls for proposals, grant, volunteer and job opportunities in the higher education and nonprofit sectors.