Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alan J. Ingram joined Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Springfield School Committee vice-chairman Norman Roldan in proclaiming October “College Awareness Month” in the City of Springfield during a ceremony on Friday, October 1st at 10 a.m. in City Hall, Room 220.
In partnership with area colleges and universities, as well as community organizations, the district offers college access programs and services throughout the year, but this month, Springfield joins many cities nationwide in setting October aside as a distinct time for students of all ages to learn more about continuing their education after high school. “College Awareness Month” builds on pre-existing events that take place in October, such as the administration of the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) and local college fairs, to spread the message of college awareness throughout the district.
“It is critically important for our young people to know about, talk about and most importantly, have aspirations about attending college – even if they will be the first person in their family to do so; maybe even especially if they are the first person in their family to go to college because we know that a college degree helps breaks the chains of poverty,” said Sarno, adding that college graduates are more likely to get jobs with health insurance and it is easier for them to find and hold jobs.
In 2009, Sarno and Ingram jointly announced the ACCESS Springfield Promise program, an initiative aimed at dramatically increasing the number of Springfield Public Schools (SPS) students attending college. The program provides financial aid advising to all SPS high school seniors.
Since its inception, ACCESS Springfield Promise Program financial aid advisors have:
· Conducted 1,293 individual sessions to seniors
· Provided Financial Aid 101 Workshops to 571 seniors
· Completed 370 Financial Aid Forms with students and parents
· Completed 268 scholarship applications for the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts ( an increase of 104% from the previous year)
Ingram said Springfield students are enrolling in college though the numbers are too low for satisfaction. In June, 887 out of 1,200 seniors reported they had been accepted to college. The Springfield Renaissance School, which graduated its first senior class June, achieved a college acceptance rate of 100 percent.
“The national conversation and school reform efforts clearly articulate that every student graduating from high school is career and college ready,” said Ingram. “In a school district with an over 80% poverty rate, we must galvanize district and community resources to ensure that every child in SPS knows that college is a realistic option.”
Ingram pointed to several expanding programs aimed at providing college-like academic experiences in high school so that students are better prepared for college. In the past two years, the number of students with passing scores on Advanced Placement (AP) math, science and English courses has increased more than 20 percent; and there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of students sitting for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Tests (PSATs).
Some of the highlights of “College Awareness Month” include:
- “College Fridays” – On Fridays this month, teachers, principals, central office staff and other employees are encouraged to wear apparel representing the college from which they graduated or any other college.
- Free SAT preparation, college application assistance and financial aid overviews every Wednesday and Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Springfield Renaissance High School.
- Free PSAT testing for all students in grades 10 and 11 on Oct. 13 at high schools throughout the district.
- Several college and career fairs.
- Rally to recognize the growing number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement Courses, Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. at Central High School.
- All Springfield schools – pre-kindergarten through high school – will emphasize college as an important component of a complete education.
- College Affordability Advising in High Schools – ACCESS Springfield Promise Program staff will launch in-school advising services in all Springfield high schools.
- Community Engagement – ACCESS Springfield Promise Program will present college-access workshops throughout the month and beyond in partnership with the following organizations: the Springfield Parent Academy, the Greater Springfield YMCA, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, STCC, the New England Farm Workers Council, and the Springfield Housing Authority, and others.
- Last Dollar Scholarships for Class of 2010 Graduates – ACCESS Springfield Promise Program will announce more than 80 recipients in October.