By Frank Hernandez, October guest blogger
Several weeks ago, thousands of students walked onto our college campuses to start new journeys in education. Among them was a young man who a few years ago was involved in local gangs and destined to drop out of high school. How did he, and many others like him, end up at a top-notch private college?
The answer to that question is as complex as each student. Yet, there are some common threads. First and foremost, each student needs to make a conscious effort to change some things about how they want to live. Many also find support from local community-based organizations.
For example, Centro is a local Latino community organization, which is located in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. It offers a continuum of youth programs for Latino youth. Educational success is a priority across all Centro youth programs. Community-based organizations like Centro have many assets, such as bilingual, bicultural staff; strong relationships with families; and effective communications with the schools, health providers and other anchor institutions.
For the past two years, Centro’s youth coordinator, Mitch Roldán, has been working with gang-involved youth in the Minneapolis schools. With Mitch’s help, one such participant chose to move away from the gangs. He also found a deep connection to his cultural roots, took on a leadership role with his peers, and decided to apply and start at one of Minnesota’s private colleges this fall.
If community-based organizations like Centro are so successful, why aren’t more P-12 schools working closely and systemically with community-based organizations? What can teacher preparation programs learn from community-based organizations to better reach families and students who might otherwise not enroll in post-secondary education?
These are precisely the questions that a collaborative team of faculty from Augsburg, Bethel, Concordia (St Paul), Hamline, St. Catherine and St. Thomas began asking themselves as they worked on developing a new teacher preparation program through a special grant program at the Bush Foundation this past summer.
Later this month, I’ll share some highlights from the plan, which is still in development. But a key element in the plan is the commitment from our teacher preparation institutions to partner with community-based organizations.
Do you agree? Please share your thoughts and examples about what worked in effective higher education and P-12 educational partnerships with community-based organizations.