I am thrilled about an incredible new partnership for our district with Achieve Atlanta, an organization spearheaded by The Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. This initiative will dramatically increase the number of APS students graduating from high school and then entering and successfully graduating from colleges and technical schools. Their $20 million investment in our students is beautiful, bold and aggressive. I truly believe that this is the kind of investment that will change the lives of APS students and the landscape of Atlanta’s workforce forever. This type of partnership is exactly what our students need and deserve.
Achieve Atlanta will bring partners to APS who will provide college counseling support to our students. These counselors will work in conjunction with our APS high school counselors beginning in ninth grade, show them how college is actually accessible and help them secure scholarships.
Achieve will also help with gap scholarships so that APS students have fewer financial barriers to access college.
This week Achieve Atlanta named Tina Fernandez, a former bilingual elementary school teacher and law professor, as executive director of the organization. While serving with the University of Texas School of Law, Ms. Fernandez launched a Pro Bono Program that helped deliver legal services to low-income individuals. She is currently a partner at Bellwether Education Partners.
I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Fernandez in Austin and I am excited to see her bring her passion for education to Atlanta. I’d like to thank our Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan, who served on the search committee.
Earlier this year, Dr. Timothy Gadson, our APS Associate Superintendent of High Schools and I were able to see this type of programming in action during a site visit to Denver, Colorado to visit the Denver Scholarship Foundation. I was joined by the team of people who have really made this partnership happen for the students of Atlanta – Lizzy Smith and Russ Hardin with the Woodruff and Whitehead Foundations and Lesley Grady and Alicia Philipp with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
I think that this partnership will go a long way towards ensuring that kids who historically have not been able to access college have the academic, financial and emotional supports to not only get into college but complete college. Our APS counselors do a heroic job of getting kids into college but their case loads are enormous and Achieve will help ensure more students have access to the counseling they need to identify the right college for them.
As they thoughtfully and carefully prepared this initiative, the folks over at Achieve Atlanta commissioned a research study around issues and opportunities for improving college access and completion for APS students. , but their results tell us that:
- Atlanta’s students are not receiving high quality consistent advising while in high school that prepares them for post-secondary education;
- Too many students are not enrolling in college;
- Many APS graduates do not graduate from college due to emotional, academic and financial barriers; and
- Atlanta’s nonprofit and civic community organizations are not responding to students needs in a holistic manner.
Our students will participate in the following Achieve Atlanta signature programs:
Achieve College – external advisors are placed in APS high schools to ensure students receive early access to information and assistance to create career goals, apply for college and financial aid and gain experiences that expose them to postsecondary options. Advisors will work in tandem with school counselors and other professionals.
Achieve Graduation — Advisors from post-secondary institutions to provide intensive counseling to students enrolled in APS.
Achieve Atlanta Scholarship and Achieve Atlanta Micro Grants – Last dollar financial assistance to students who have unmet financial needs for college, as well as responsive grants for unexpected needs that arise throughout a student’s college experience.
This partnership helps to support our ability to execute on our mission and vision.
We hear all the time about the students who would have gone to college and completed their degree if they had just had a tiny bit more financial assistance, a better understanding of the application process or an advisor they could trust once on campus. Achieve Atlanta will make sure we have less of those stories here in Atlanta.
Thank you Achieve Atlanta for your generous donation of time, talents and financial support.