Getting Oakland middle school students to spend the next six years preparing for entering college is the primary focus of a $2.8 million federal grant awarded to a consortium headed up by the Teacher Education Department of California State University, Hayward.
The grant will be applied to the Successful Options for Academic Readiness (SOAR) program, administered by Cal State Hayward. Supporters of the project include the Oakland Unified School District, the Peralta Community College District, the Oakland Community Partnership and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee.
On Aug. 7 President Clinton announced the award of $120 million for 185 new grants under the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) that will help more than 200,000 disadvantaged children, beginning in the middle grades, to prepare for success in college.
Only three programs in the nation (in Chicago, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City) are receiving larger grants than Cal State Hayward's partnership with Oakland.
"These programs can make all the difference in whether a young person goes on to higher education and succeeds," said Cal State Hayward President Norma Rees. "They reach out to students in the seventh grade and stay with them all the way. They provide students with tutors and mentors who encourage them to have high expectations for themselves and prepare them to meet high standards."
More than 3,500 students in 14 Oakland schools will be the targets for the intensive effort by CSUH professors, Oakland teachers, mentors, parents and volunteers. The middle schools are Edna Brewer, Carter, Elmhurst, Frick, Bret Harte, Havenscourt, King Estates, Lowell, Madison, Roosevelt, Calvin Simmons and Westlake. Seventh and eighth grade students at Cole and John Swett K-8 schools will be included.
The project director is CSUH teacher education Professor Antonio Andrade, and the project coordinator is Fred Ellis, a program coordinator with the Oakland Unified School District.
The GEAR UP program in Oakland is aimed at developing students' potential and helping them and their families prepare for college by offering counseling, tutoring and mentoring to help students succeed in higher mathematics and other college preparation courses. All classes will be evaluated to ensure they teach skills helpful in preparing students for college entrance exams.
Some of the activities will be held after school, on Saturdays and during the summer. They will include field trips, summer classes on college campuses, and academic seminars. Students will work with teachers, counselors, parents and mentors.
The program will also offer scholarships and family counseling regarding college loans and financial aid options.
"Students who take academically demanding high school course work are more likely to go on to college, succeed and earn more in the work force, regardless of their financial status, race or gender," said Arthurlene Towner, dean of the School of Education and Allied Studies at Cal State Hayward. "However, disadvantaged students often are not aware of the need to take rigorous academic courses to prepare for college, like algebra in middle school or chemistry and trigonometry in high school, or of the availability of financial aid to pay for college."
Towner said key factors in selection of the Cal State Hayward project for funding included proposals to involve Oakland parents, create local matches of resources to fund long-term commitments, and strengthen school curriculum and support services.
Parent centers at each school will help develop trainers through the Oakland Community Partnership organization. That group will support SOAR with a "Dollars for Scholars" campaign that will include a fund-raising luncheon sponsored by Bay Area radio station KMEL, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and the City of Oakland.
The university already has a significant presence in Oakland schools. More than 230 Cal State Hayward credential candidates will teach in Oakland classrooms this fall. Candidates for state schools administrative and counseling credentials will also work in Oakland schools. The university has six programs directed at Oakland students and teachers in math and science and others in English, literacy, and preparation for careers and college life.
The U.S. Education Department awarded two types of grants: $42 million for 21 state grants and $75 million for 164 partnerships between colleges and low-income middle and junior high schools. There were more than 670 partnership and state proposals representing all 50 states, an estimated one out of every five U.S. colleges, and more than 4,500 organizations. Only one in four partnership grant applicants and half of the state grant applicants could be funded.
Partnership projects had to include at least one college or university, one school district on behalf of one or more low-income middle- and high schools, and two additional organizations such as businesses or community-based groups.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News