On August 17 and 18, Leya and I joined our colleagues from all spectrums of college access and success at the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable Conference. From school counselors, to college admissions counselors, to other programs focused on students in high school and helping them develop a postsecondary plan, educators gathered to engage in the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable’s 25th year of “courageous conversations,” as the conference was aptly named.
We attended different workshops ranging from retaining at-risk students, FAFSA completion strategies, helping students who will be the first in their families to attend college develop a roadmap, and so much more. We were able to see one of our former CCAs, who is now working for another program that supports high school students.
We heard from two amazing keynote speakers – Sara Goldrick-Rab and Uva Coles. The first speaker, Sara Goldrick-Rab, had a research center in Wisconsin that focused on the issue of college students facing homelessness and food insecurity. She is now opening a research center based out of Temple University. She shared that the real debt crisis is that many students leave college in debt, but without degrees. Uva talked about college access and success professionals being the links in the chain that lead students to success. Uva is the Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Strategic Partnerships at Peirce College. Peirce recently launched a workforce training program for parents and their children, taking a two-generation approach to providing both job and life skill readiness.
Throughout all the sessions and speakers, a message that was echoed was to start both the conversation and preparation for postsecondary planning earlier. The sooner students get the message to start planning for life after high school, the better. We worked on strategies on how to implement this urgency with students, and came up with actionable steps we can all take in our respective fields- whether they be in the high schools, in after school programs, colleges and trade schools, and career-readiness programs.
Perhaps the best part, for me, was the relationships I was able to both strengthen with colleagues I have previously met, as well as creating new relationships. It was so encouraging to collaborate with others who work for the same mission. At the heart of all of our conversations was putting students first. We do this work so as to share knowledge and not to reinvent the wheel. That is the goal of the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable: to provide tools, resources and opportunities for discourse; support leadership development in the field; and seek to bridge the gap between policy, research and practice in the area of college access and completion.
It was a jam-packed two days full of productive work that has us starting the year with great momentum.
– Kerry DiNardo, Promise Corps Site Supervisor