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More African American Men to College
August 16, 2006

The Calvin College office of Pre-College Programs will pioneer a program to prepare African-American young men for college entrance thanks to a two-year, $100,000 grant from Lumina Foundation for Education.

The program, to be called P2P Excel, is a fresh spin on Pathways to Possibilities (P2P), a 12-year-old effort partnering Pre-College Programs with churches and community ministries to foster college awareness in at-risk youth.

Calvin's Rhae-Ann Booker, director of Pre-College Programs, says the primary target of P2P Excel is African-American males because of concerns about their traditionally low college attendance and graduation.

In addition P2P Excel will depart from the old Pathways model in a number of ways, including becoming the first Pathways program to partner Pre-College Programs with schools rather than churches.

Booker is enthusiastic about this new collaboration.

“I would just like to say to the Grand Rapids Public Schools that the Office of Pre-College Programs at Calvin College has now entered your arena, and we plan to stick around for the long haul," she says. "The Grand Rapids Public Schools are doing a good job and with solid partnerships like this one, we as a college and GRPS can do a better job.”

P2P Excel will work within communities, preparing middle and high-school students to succeed in their courses and to successfully apply to and attend college.

“There’s a difference between college exposure and college preparation,” Booker explains.

At P2P Excel's core is a tutoring program which will see up to 30 students in the program receive tutoring in college prep curriculum at their school or at a local community ministry.

“With this grant, we will work with those students who are making the tough decision to take the more rigorous courses,” Booker says. “We want to help them succeed in those courses and stick with that curriculum. So, we’re hoping to have Calvin students as well as adults from the community ministries providing the tutoring and mentoring.”

A second component of P2P Excel expands on an existing tutoring program created last year by Calvin senior Nathan Tonlaar, who tapped Calvin students majoring in the natural sciences to prepare Ottawa Hills High School students to take the American College Test (ACT). P2P Excel will institutionalize and expand the tutoring effort.

“The ACT prep is crucial because the ACT is a gatekeeper to higher education and to accessing financial resources to assist with costs of higher education,” Booker says. “Unfortunately there are disparities among our school districts in how kids and parents are introduced to and prepared for this test. We want to address this particular issue which stands as a barrier to higher education for some communities.”

The third and key component to P2P Excel is a parent network. Through dinners and other gatherings, the program will furnish parents with the resources they need to motivate their children toward a post-high school education.

“The parent component excites me because up until this point, we’ve expressed that most of our programming is open to parents, but parent participation has been minimal,” Booker says. “So the parent network represents a more focused effort.”

Lumina Foundation for Education is an Indianapolis-based, private, independent foundation that strives to help people achieve their potential by expanding access and success in education beyond high school. The Foundation bases its mission on the belief that postsecondary education remains one of the most beneficial investments that individuals can make in themselves and that society can make in its people.

~written by communications and marketing staff writer Myrna Anderson