Alabama Possible’s Blueprints College Access Initiative connects 21st century high school students and their families with resources and relationships so that they are equipped to graduate from high school college- and career-ready.
Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the nation, with 19 percent of Alabamians – and 27.6 percent of our children — living below the federal poverty line. Alabama’s median household income is $9,078 less than the national average. According to the Southern Education Foundation, 60 percent of that gap is due to Alabamians’ low educational attainment. College graduates elevate their personal earning capacity and bring nearly $1 million in spending power back to their local communities. Educational attainment is also a key factor in employers’ site location decisions, which in turn can create a healthier economy for all of us. Blueprints focuses its efforts on promoting a college-going culture in order to reduce systemic poverty and increase educational attainment in our state. Low-income, minority, and first-generation students are especially likely to lack specific types of “college knowledge,” including knowing how to finance a college education, complete basic admissions procedures, and make connections between career goals and educational requirements.
How is the program structured?
Blueprints utilizes a “near peer” mentoring model by engaging college students as mentors for high school students. College students demystify the college-going process and connect high school students with an information-rich network of supportive coaches who can help them make structured decisions and navigate the college admissions process.
9th Grade Early Awareness Mentoring: Current college students mentor 9th graders as they build a portfolio with personalized activities and resources for accessing financial aid, exploring careers and colleges, and acquiring academic and soft skills. The 9th grade program culminates in a focused field trip to a university campus.
10th-12th Grade College Coaching: Building upon the 9th grade program, Blueprints continues to provide support for 10th-12th graders in actualizing their college and career goals. College-prep coaches encourage goal setting and college attainment through a combination of ACT prep, career and college planning, and assistance completing the FAFSA.
College/University Service Learning Classes. Blueprints has been integrated into service learning classes at a number of our partner institutions including: UH 105 College/Career Readiness at The University of Alabama; CAS 399 Perceptions of Poverty in America, GCLH 201/301 Leadership and Community, and HAC 301 Prime Time Leadership at UAB; Social Work classes at the University of Montevallo. Students commit to 5/6 mentoring sessions at a local high school in addition to time-spent in class as well as participating in reflection exercises.
Why Blueprints works.
I have worked with the Blueprints College Access Program for over a year to provide a service learning project in my social work courses. The goal of the project is to integrate community service with high school students on issues of college access into college-level coursework through critical and reflective thinking assignments. Not only do my students get practical experience working as mentors for youth, but they gain a deeper and real-world understanding of how human behavior is affected by systems of different sizes such as the family, school system, and economy. The Alabama Poverty Project makes it easy to incorporate Blueprints into a service-learning project by providing a thorough training and consistent direction and supervision of students throughout their volunteer experience. My students consistently report serving as a mentor for Blueprints is one of their favorite assignments of the semester, and I truly value my partnership with the staff at the Alabama Poverty Project.
Dr. Laurel Hitchcock, Director and Assistant Professor of Social Work
University of Montevallo
How can Blueprints be integrated into my class?
The Blueprints curriculum is easily integrated as a complement to service learning classes in education, social work, poverty, and as part of an honors curriculum focused on citizenship and civic engagement. Each mentoring session addresses a college issue, including, financial aid, exploring college/career options, and creating an educational plan to guide mentees during and after high school. By providing information, guidance, and encouragement, mentors can play an important role in nurturing students’ college aspirations, helping them prepare for college and, advising them on how to make successful transitions from high school to their first year on campus. In addition, mentoring for students in college helps students to feel more connected and engaged on campus, which can ultimately improve student outcomes.
Blueprints has created a curriculum focusing on the needs of 9th-12th graders and a Blueprints staff member is always present to train mentors, supervise mentoring sessions, and provide any other needed support services.
For more information contact: Liora Chessin at LChessin@alabamapossible.org or 205-939-1408.