(Live blog included) The city is counting on students like Marc Lewis and a brigade of volunteers as it launches a second and equally ambitious component of a “promise” to help New Haven kids go to college.
Lewis (pictured at top), a senior at the downtown Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School and an aspiring Supreme Court justice, got trained last summer as a peer leader at his school as part of a pilot program with a not-for-profit called College Summit.
Now the city is expanding that program as a second part of its New Haven Promise program.
Mayor John DeStefano and Yale announced last week that the Promise program will guarantee up to full college tuition for city high schoolers who keep a 3.0 average and show up to class. Wednesday, DeStefano he revealed part two of Promise: The “New Haven Promise Partnership.”
The Partnership will create a “College Corps” of volunteers, including local graduates. They will go “door to door” to work with families to get their kids ready for college. It will help applicants with the nitty gritty of applying, including how to write essays.
The Partnership will also develop a new pre-K through 8th grade curriculum aimed to prepare kids better for high school and therefore college, and train high school teachers and a local “College Corps” of local undergraduate volunteers to guide students through the college process. DeStefano previewed the announcement in a speech at Yale Tuesday. Click here for more details.
To get the job done, the city plans to enter a multi-year contract with a not-for-profit outfit called College Summit. DeStefano said the contract will cost $290,000 in the first year, and up to $650,000 in future years. He said he has committed to raising private money to pay for it.
J.B. Schramm, founder and CEO of College Summit, said College Summit will be working with parents and students in grades pre-K to 8 to make sure they’re on track for college-going. It will work more intensively with high-schoolers to get them ready for college. That includes: academic goals, setting a career goal linked to college, understanding vocabulary and expectations of college, “self-advocacy” and financial awareness.
He said Yale will host a four-day training session with 150 rising high school students next summer, so they can return to their high schools and act as leaders encouraging peers to go to college.
Marc Lewis was one of those peer leaders as Co-op High entered its second year of a pilot program with College Summit this year. A West Haven resident, he’s not eligible for Promise. But he is amply equipped to spread the word about college-going.
Lewis said he grew up with a single mom. In a four-day training with College Summit at Amherst College, he set his own goals for college and learned how to help his peers follow suit.
New Haven “lacks the college-cultivating atmosphere,” he said. In school this year, he has sought to inspire younger students who aren’t focused on academics or college.
“I want to be their rock,” when they falter on their path, he said.
He said he aims to teach his peers that “you can still succeed, whatever your environment is.”
“I’m successful, and I haven’t had my father” in my life, he said.
Lewis said he’s setting his sights on Columbia University to launch a career in law. He intends to attend Yale or Harvard Law School, then work his way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The College Corps concept was explored in a 4 p.m. panel at Yale. A live blog follows.
4:00: Schramm and DeStefano are here with by Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, on the panel. Jeff Brenzel, dean of undergraduate admissions for Yale University, will moderate.
4:04: Brenzel does introductions. DeStefano’s here at Yale in his new role as a Chubb fellow. The fellowship, established in 1936 by alum Hendon Chubb, is awarded each year to three or four public service notables. In earning the title, New Haven’s mayor joins the ranks of former President Ronald Reagan, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, author Norman Mailer, actor Robert Redford, and former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland.
4:06: The crowd is pretty sparse here. Some students from the Coop Voices news site are here snapping photos. Some Yale folks, school officials, a parent activist. Speakers are up on the auditorium stage. Nice floral carpet and soft theater seats.
4:10: Weingarten’s union represents 1.5 million people nationwide. She is making her second appearance in New Haven in 13 months to applaud the city’s school reform drive. She visited last year in the wake of the landmark teachers contract, which stuck out for its collaborative nature. Weingarten (pictured) has been villainized nationally as an obstructor to education reform, most notably in the popular flick Waiting For Superman.
Will she find a safe Haven here?
4:13: Schramm introduction. He’s a Yale alum. Founded College Summit in 1993. He got inspired while working in a teen center in the basement of a low-income housing project in Washington, D.C.
4:16: DeStefano plugs an event tomorrow that’s key to make way for the college scholarship component: Getting the state to pass a DREAM Act that would allow Connecticut residents who are undocumented immigrants to get in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. Right now, they have to pay out-of-state tuition, which is about $10,000 at the state universities and $24,500 at UConn. DeStefano’s planning a 11 a.m. presser at SCSU about getting that law passed.
4:20: DeStefano: How do we institutionalize school change beyond the tenure of the mayor? (Not that he intends to leave anytime soon, he jokes.) The “College Corps” will do that. Volunteers from churches and businesses will spread the message. “I want to send people knocking on doors in neighborhoods.” He’ll tap into the incredible wealth of undergraduates who have just gone through college admissions. Out-of-town undergrads will partner with adult volunteers who are from those neighborhoods.
“Ulterior motive,” said DeStefano: To institutionalize school change beyond his tenure as mayor.
4:24: Sharon Palmer, president of the state AFT, is sitting in the front row. DeStefano says the union-board of ed relations are still strong, after the teachers contract. We’re doing “pretty damn well,” he says. Palmer nods yes.
4:31: Schramm: Starting in 9th grade, College Summit will work “intensively” with high school students. Teach them to understand the financial value of college. Set career goals. Learn how to be a self-advocate. He says Promise is “bold” because it’s asking everyone in the city to get on board. College Summit high schools are successful when young people become “drivers” of culture in the schools.
That’s where the 150 high school seniors come in. They’ll be selected as peer leader evangelists. They’ll get trained on Yale campus on how to fill out their own college apps, then bring the message back to the schools. They’ll raise expectations in a way that only students can. (Theory: You can’t just tell kids to go to college, they have to be on board and change the school culture.)
4:38: Weingarten: AFT hosted 35 districts for a session with union leaders and superintendents on collaboration. The one district that we highlighted was New Haven. Dave Cicarella, the New Haven local of the AFT’s head, isn’t here because he’s in California spreading the world about New Haven’s school change campaign. New Haven has become the national “poster boy” for school change that’s collaborative.
4:43: “Not Kumbaya,” but the parties problem-solve together. (She’s really holding New Haven on high. Earlier, she applauded the mayor for his vision and aspirations for the schools. Can New Haven benefit more from this spotlight? In the hallway, DeStefano asked her if she could help him get funding to promote/further the collaborative New Haven-teacher union relationship.)
4:44: She ends her remarks with “Bravo, New Haven!” Now we’re on to the Q and A.
4:47: Moderator shares a tidbit: President Obama gave part of his Nobel Peace Prize money to College Summit.
Moderator Question: After all the talk, what galvanizes a city to come together around this?
4:50: DeStefano: Though the city’s so diverse, we have common values. Large segments of the community responded well to the part of Promise that’s about earning benefit. Also, New Haven has social tolerances. Historical look: New Haven has been passionate about HIV/AIDS, immigrant rights.
4:56: Weingarten: Teachers already want to be organized around hope. There are lots of ways teachers feel disappointed or betrayed, because they don’t get trust or voice. Teachers want to be trusted, want to engage in their work. How often have you seen teachers roll their eyes at the proposal of the next fad of the moment, curriculum of the week?
New Haven’s not about that, she says. Teachers took shared responsibility in their teacher contract to “transform the school system.” New Haven has followed through on the Promise, as promised… following through is an important part of galvanizing teachers to act. (She’s pretty hopeful about New Haven, no cautionary words, doling out a lot of praise.)
Schramm: How do you get students galvanized? He’s asked.
4:56: Running out of time. No public questions yet. Schramm is telling a story about working with kids in Virginia. Students are not the vessels that we pour our curriculum into. You’ve got to “put out the challenge” to them. Don’t just ask them to run a Sadie Hawkins dance. Ask them to tackle the dropout problem. Students are the largest untapped resource in improving education. Let them “tap their power.”
Weingarten’s gotta go. Any more questions for her?
5:01: Yale’s Mike Morand: Glad to be in New Haven, instead of Washington, D.C., where unions are at war with administration. What can we offer to the national landscape of antagonism? What’s to come in the next two years?
5:02: Weingarten’s pessimistic nationally. She says she expects a “scream-fest” of “high-octane rhetoric” nationwide. How can New Haven help?
You’ve got a powerful narrative here in New Haven. Take the show on the road, so that this type of collaboration becomes the norm, not the exception, nationwide.
5:04: Q: How do you measure success of Promise?
DeStefano: Cut the 27 percent dropout rate in half in five years. In the class of 2008, only 211 kids would be eligible for Promise scholarships. In four years, we want to increase that 10 percent per year. Another measure of success: More people living in New Haven. (More taxpayers for me! said earlier, with a smile.)
5:10: What will the relationship between New Haven and the feds be?
DeStefano: Administrations will come and go. This is about New Haven. The important thing will be what choices the state—“Hi Rep. Toni Walker, how are you?”—makes in the upcoming budget. He’s going to pitch the state on how important the school change effort is for violence reduction and wealth creation.
5:13: Weingarten gets a last word. Yes, Washington is important. But after all we did in New Haven, the reform-minded work didn’t fit into the feds’ vision of what is needed to turn around schools. That’s “patently ridiculous.” (She’s referencing how New Haven missed out on federal i3 grants.)
Parting wisdom: “Just ignore the pack and keep doing what you’re doing.”