In honor of all PreK-20 students

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This post is dedicated to all PreK-20 students. As adults, we try to do what’s best for our youth. We’re not perfect but we do the best that we can… Here’s an example.

Martin Ward is a senior in high school who is interested in computers and sports journalism. “I’m really good in computers and I’m even more advanced than the classes offered at school, so when I go to college I want to major in computers.” Martin also loves to play basketball, “My skills are sick on the court, I mean I don’t play on my high school team but, I want to go to the NBA. If I don’t make it, then I have a backup plan to be an announcer or sports journalist. So I want to major in sports journalism too.”

I responded, “Oh wow Martin! That sounds like a plan.”

Martin replied, “A plan…oh yeah a plan. Yeah, that’s my plan.”

This is his dream. Martin is a good student in school. He’s a little shy but well-liked. However, the reality is … Martin hasn’t filled out one application. In fact, he hasn’t even taken the SATs to go to college. Overall, Martin has not taken the necessary steps to achieve his dreams.

Sadly, there are many students like Martin, who have no concrete plans to accomplish their goals. These are students who have great dreams; yet, do not have a plan to be successful in life. This raises the question, “What should we do to help our students? How?” But more importantly, “What is my reaction when I hear a story like Martin’s?” In other words, how can I explain the concept of creating a college/career plan when he has no idea where to begin? How can I help him to develop a working plan that can change as life progresses? These difficult questions are the reasons why I want to pursue my doctorate in Higher Education Management at the University of Pittsburgh so that I may research college-going culture in schools.

This week, I passed my preliminary exams, which is a huge milestone in earning my doctorate degree. It took a lot of hardwork and planning to prepare my portfolio and earn faculty approval. It’s almost a twist of fate that I was able to accomplish my goals; while students, who I talk to on a daily basis, will not. More importantly, this is where I can use my accomplishments and apply it to help a student’s life. With all of my experiences and education, college access for underrepresented students has become my research interest. It is an area where social inequities can be addressed to offer more equal opportunities for PPS students in higher education; while also addressing some of the deeper social issues and personal development of the students at the same time. The rate of minority students dropping out of school is alarming; while the rate of students accessing higher education is disheartening. With college admissions going up and retention going down, we can see that an issue is arising on how we educate and graduate students, particularly minority students. Of course there are theories to explain this phenomenon; but, research is needed in order to fully understand and address the issue of college access, especially in Pittsburgh.

Martin isn’t the only student in Pittsburgh or America whose unsure future will limit his ability to accomplish his dreams. Yet, students like him make it…they survive. Martin did take the SATs in the spring of his senior. He missed the first semester but he did enroll at the community college. With help from programs such as College Success 101 and a college-bound plan, students won’t miss opportunities to take the SATs or miss a semester of school. They will become more than survivors to be the architects of their own futures.

In conclusion, it has taken all of my experiences to understand that adequate secondary school counseling, good academic/social development, valid college knowledge, and supportive community college-prep programs equal effective college access for PPS students. In other words, as educators, we need to guide our students’ towards their future goals. A student who plans their future can develop into a successful young person. This student will then be ready to access any college or career of his/her choice in order to achieve his/her most daring dreams.

P.S. As adults, we need to always remember to use our time, talents, and treasure to help others who most need it… Our youth! This post is dedicated to them!

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