Advancing a College-Going Culture

Author: Helios Education Foundation

October 2, 2014

Like many students in the Tampa area, Jasmine grew up in a home where education wasn't a priority.  Her parents had completed high school
 but had no formal postsecondary education.  Jasmine's focus was on getting through high school - that was her finish line.  It wasn't until, at age 15, she started participating in a program called "College for Every Student" on her high school campus that she realized that a college education was not only necessary for her but it was a real possibility.     

As a gateway to intellectual growth and diverse careers, postsecondary education including certificates, licenses and college degrees, opens the door to opportunities for individuals, families and communities.  In addition, postsecondary education also provides the kinds of skills and knowledge that are vital to success in today's global economy including the ability to create, innovate and think critically to solve complex challenges. 

Providing opportunities for students to succeed in postsecondary education is more than a mission statement for Helios Education Foundation, it is the ultimate goal by which all of the Foundation's investment decisions and strategic partnerships are measured.  Investments within each impact area work together to provide the necessary supports to advance student academic preparedness - from birth through career - which will ultimately lead to postsecondary education success.

However, despite the clear benefits of postsecondary education, many full-time Arizona and Florida students fail to earn a credential. Currently, only 35 percent of working age adults in Arizona and Florida have an associate's degree or higher*.

We have work to do. 

Helios has outlined the need to advance a college-going culture as a key component to supporting postsecondary success.  The concept of college-going culture refers to the environment and attitudes in schools and communities that encourage students to obtain the college-knowledge and access to resources that lead to success in postsecondary education. 

For some students, like Jasmine, college isn't a part of their plans.  In some cases, it's not even seen as a possibility.  Until someone enters their life and shows them that it can be done.   

Through strategic investments and partnerships in the Foundation's Transition Years Impact Area, Helios is working to help create a college-going culture in communities in which this culture may not be currently embedded - first-generation, low-income, minority and rural.

College for Every Student (CFES) is a nonprofit organization committed to raising the academic aspirations and performance of underserved youth so that they can prepare for, gain access to and succeed in college.  They have a 22-year foundation of success in helping low-income youth move toward college by emphasizing three core practices:  mentoring, leadership through service and pathways to college with a focus on STEM.   

The program takes place on school campuses and each campus identifies 100 or more low-income students in grades 6-8 who will participate in the CFES program.  The program was recently evaluated by the University of Michigan* and researchers found that the strategies employed by CFES including early exposure to college, mentoring and community service leadership, have a substantial impact on college-going attitudes of disadvantaged students.  Seventy-five percent of the program participants plan to attend four-year colleges, compared with 5 percent in a control group. 

Through the pathways to college core practice, Helios has partnered with CFES to provide a focus on STEM which is intended to expose students to the opportunities available in the STEM areas.  All students in the program participate in ongoing college exposure, regular service projects with a STEM focus, interact with professionals working in STEM fields and receive leadership training. 

"The CFES model is unique in that it is student-led," said Stacy Carlson, Vice President & Program Director, Florida Transition Years.  "The students initiate CFES on their campuses and they utilize peer-to-peer mentoring to show postsecondary education as a reality and to help them get on the right track toward success.  We have invested more than $800,000 in CFES and believe that these resources are being used effectively to help build a college-going culture for students in the Tampa area."

Helios' partnership with CFES is helping to raise the academic aspirations and performance of underserved youth, better preparing them for and helping them gain access to a postsecondary education.

Today, Jasmine is a proud graduate of USF and is applying to medical school.  She is also working to develop a CFES program at a middle school in Tampa.

"I wanted to give back to others while I was getting help myself,"  said Jasmine.  "Through this program, I am making sure these students know that a college education is a reality for them and helping them take the necessary steps to get on the right path toward college success." 

*2007-2011 American Community Survey, US Census Bureau,

Click here to read more about the University of Michigan study.  


Category: 10 Year Anniversary, Postsecondary Success

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