College-preparedness programs here are working to engage students but need to be expanded, according to a new study that gives voice to those most affected by the issue – Rhode Island students from families with low incomes.
Rhode Island Kids Count in December released Improving College Access and Success, a report summarizing a series of focus groups conducted with Providence high school students that asked what support they need to complete the college-application process.
“There is such an illumination of the real issues when you talk to young people who right now, at this moment, are the youth we are talking about,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count.
Kids Count, a children’s policy and advocacy organization, partnered last May with Young Voices, a nonprofit that strives to give youth a voice in policy reform, to conduct the focus groups.
More than 60 Providence youths who participate in Young Voices’ year-round Leadership Transformation Academy, which prepares them to push for education policy change at local and state levels, took part in five focus groups.
“A lot of times [adults and leaders] make policies and programs for young people without talking to them and just think we know best,” said Karen Feldman, executive director of Young Voices. “We say we know better but we really don’t.”
The students were asked to comment on how schools and community agencies in Providence were handling encouraging youths to go to college, helping them to identify schools to apply to and helping them and their parents with the application process.
The focus groups included students in ninth through 12th grade. Seventy-five percent of the students attended a Providence public high school and the remainder attended a charter school located in Providence.