NCIC awarded college prep grant
WORTHINGTON -- When local students peer into their future, it may look a bit brighter thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Corp.
The nonprofit Madison, Wis.-based corporation works with schools, lenders and community organizations to help millions of people pay for college and build brighter futures, according to its website, www.mygreatlakes.org. It recently awarded the Nobles County Integration Collaborative a $75,000 grant to teach high school students and their parents about the college preparation, application and financial aid processes.
It is the second time the collaborative has received the grant (the award was $72,000 last year), but they are using it a little differently this year.
"The way we implemented it last year was successful, but not as successful as we wanted it to be," explained Sharon Johnson, NCIC coordinator. "We had one full-time graduation coach, and it just got to be too much for one person to handle."
This year, the graduation coach will plan bigger events like parent meetings and college visits, while three part-time success coaches based in the Adrian, Fulda and Round Lake-Brewster districts assist with day-to-day activities like afterschool homework help.
Current graduation coach Lakeyta Potter, who will be moving to another position in the collaborative, explained the importance of the grant.
"We get to connect with out-of-town students. We haven't had those connections in previous years," she said, recalling student field trips to colleges and local businesses.
"When you talk to kids about anything related to their future plans, it really opens their eyes to the opportunities they have after high school. We tell these ninth-graders 'It's important to start now.'"
There will also be language-specific parent meetings that will cover the financial aid process and timeline leading up to the first day of college, a change from last year's English meetings with multiple interpreters.
"A lot of parents with first-generation college students do not know when the process starts," Johnson said. "We're saying they should start early in their freshman year, even going on college visits as a freshman."
Last year, 213 students participated in grant-related programs, with 95 going on college visits -- nearly double the 50 students who visited schools through the collaborative before the grant.
Also new this year are an ACT preparation course and more visits to schools throughout the region. South Dakota State University, Winona State University and the Twin Cities and Rochester campuses of the University of Minnesota were among last year's destinations.
"We want students to be successful when they get to college," Johnson said. "So we want to make sure the college is a really good match for their interests and abilities and money."