One Goal helping CPS students get to college

May 17, 2013 2:56:29 PM PDT
Nationally, only eight percent of ninth graders in low-income communities are expected to graduate from college by age 25.

In the Chicago Public Schools system, only 18 percent of incoming ninth graders enroll in four-year universities after high school. One Goal, a teacher-led college persistence organization, is dedicated to systemically changing this reality in Chicago. Currently, One Goal teachers are in 23 CPS schools serving 1,300 students who were selected their second year in high school to participate in the One Goal program.

At the Chicago Academy High School on the Northwest Side, One Goal teacher Andrew Johnson has worked closely with 25 students over the last two years on improving their test scores, time management , academics and making college a reality. Most of their test scores have improved by at least three points. Breyanna Floyd 's ACT score increased eight points after all the class preparation. She said One Goal is the reason she is going to college. Miguel Nieves said One Goal helped him better his time management.

"One Goal helped me to be persistent and ambitious. I was not that way before," said student Christian Plunkett.

Twenty-three of the 25 students already know where they are going to college. Megan Villasenor improved her ACT score and is going to Bradley University.

"At first, I did not think I would be able to go because of money, but they ended up giving me money because of my grades," Villasenor said.

"It is not a mystery; there are ways to teach people how to go to college, and that is what we are doing," Johnson said. "The program makes my students feel that they are a part of something bigger, that they are destined to be successful in college and they are going to get the support they need to do well in college."

The majority of these students previously did not believe they could finish high school, let alone go to college. Daja Armstrong is going to Tuskegee University in Alabama.

"I though it was a genetic thing since nobody in my family went to college, I thought I would never be able to attend college," Armstrong said. "He pushes us to do things out of our comfort zone."

"When they are in college next year I will follow up with them by phone by text to make sure they are doing well and getting connected with the right resources," said Johnson.

Cecelia Ordorica will be going to Lake Forest University and is concerned she will not fit in. She welcomes Johnson's support.

"It is a white school, and I feel uncomfortable. He will be checking in with me, and I will feel a little bit more comfortable," she said.

Dagoberto Ramirez is going to Dominican University. He is getting money but still needs to work to come up with half of more than $11,000.

"It is going to be hard," he said. "I know I have the potential to get through it."


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