Make College More Than A Dream...

Tatiana is here, in Decatur, GA, where it's impossible to accurately calculate student graduation rates (though it is likely below 30%) because kids are constantly moved, where your first high school, and likely your second high school, is almost never your last high school, where you don't "live" in a house, you simply "stay" there. Tatiana is here for summer classes too, because she understands that taking Pre-calculus between semesters will let her take Calculus before she ever reaches a college campus. She understands that to succeed she must not only excel with relation to her immediate peers, by graduating, but also on the national stage. Tatiana is here.

Chris is here, in Atlanta, GA. At a school basketball game one Saturday I asked how he was doing. "My brother was killed yesterday, he got hit by a bus. He was seven," he responded in a casual tone as if death was no longer uncommon nor shocking. He was in school the following Monday. A few weeks later Chris coordinated and directed a student production of Grease, reviving a theater department that was stripped of a faculty sponsor due to budget cuts. He also starred in the cast. Chris is here.

Brandon is here, in Atlanta, GA, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised, but at a school where fights have become the norm, where brass knuckles, knives and guns are never far away, where you are either the hunter or the hunted, or both, but rarely neither. He spends his lunches in the library, checking out books, working on a drawing with the anime club or playing chess. Last summer he played a grandmaster and was quickly defeated. Now, he carefully studies openings, plays with any willing opponent and has learned to think nearly ten moves ahead. Brandon is here.

Andrea is here, in classrooms with broken tiles exposing the building's cement foundation, with floors so grimy it is said that the dirt is "permanently waxed on," with cockroaches and ants, with constantly leaking roofs and rats scurrying above the ceiling panels. Andrea is here, en route to medical school, but for now trapped in an school without even so much as a nurse. High grades and the scrubs that she wears for Health Sciences class make her look like the doctor that she aspires to be. But she is here, where being the cream of the crop often means you're still years behind. Andrea is here.

At our Metro Atlanta Area high schools we have extremely bright, capable, enthusiastic students, but unfortunately they have not been exposed to the opportunities beyond their often-insular communities. The majority of our students receive free or reduced lunch and will be first generation college students. Even though there may be support from home, often that support is uninformed and parents may struggle to adequately guide their children through the application process. School led college visits and college fairs are poorly organized and sparsely attended; they rarely include nationally recognized institutions and our students often fail to see the opportunities beyond their state lines.

To address these issues we are taking a group of top juniors from two Metro Atlanta High Schools (Towers High School and Therrell High School) to visit schools from Atlanta to Washington, DC. The trip will include a variety of top institutions such as liberal arts colleges, state universities, colleges that guarantee to meet 100% of a student's financial aid needs, historically black colleges and the nation's most selective colleges. We are taking up to 50 students to visit 10 colleges and universities over spring break and connecting students with college admissions officers, high achieving students from similar communities and opportunities that they would otherwise not be exposed to. Students will spend time in college classes, dining halls and staying in dorms to experience academics and life on campus.

The goals we have developed for the trip are as follows:
(1) To connect our students with colleges that would provide supportive learning environments, allowing them to grow as learners and young men and women;
(2) To connect our students with students on campus who have come from similar high schools and communities and are now achieving college success at the highest levels (these examples are often hard to come by in our immediate areas and meeting students from like-backgrounds would provide guidance and inspiration to students who often succumb to lowered expectations);
(3) To expose our students to collegiate opportunities that they would otherwise not consider, looking beyond their current environment and colleges that typically attract students from our community;
(4) To provide our students with an opportunity that is afforded to students in most wealthier backgrounds and communities;
(5) And ultimately, to provide a pathway for our students to attend and achieve at some of the top institutions of higher education.

Our students are not only highly capable of being successful themselves, but also of being effective agents of change within their communities. Please help us to provide these young men and women with the opportunities that many of us were granted and help them to begin to make positive waves at their schools and beyond.


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Sam Aleinikoff 
Atlanta, GA
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