When Schuyler Central High School counselors attended an EducationQuest program in the spring, they came across an opportunity that was too good to pass up because of the service it might be able to provide their students.
As a result, the school was one of 22 Nebraska high schools – including Lakeview, Auburn, Burke, Falls City, Omaha Central and York high schools – to be awarded the College Access Grant by EducationQuest earlier this year. EducationQuest a nonprofit organization working toward improving access to higher education in Nebraska.
The amount each school received depended on its enrollment. Schuyler was allocated $7,500 annually for four years to provide students with college campus visits, dual-credit courses, as well as college fairs and educational planning programs.
The grant provides multi-year funding to Nebraska high schools with a goal of increasing the schools’ college-going rate by 10 percentage points, according to EducationQuest’s website. Since the program was established in 2006, the organization has awarded a total of $4.3 million in grants to 89 Nebraska schools.
“We are pretty excited about it,” said Katie Bertrand, ninth through 10th-grade school counselor.
Since receiving the grant, counselors hit the ground running. They organized Apply2College Day for seniors to speak with college representatives and complete their applications, as well as conducted financial aid, scholarship and resume programs. The dollars also provided students with goody bags and meals during these events.
Freshmen through senior students will have the opportunity to tour Norfolk's Northeast Community College in January 2019. Bertrand said this will be one of many visits for students to participate in moving forward.
“We want to get them exposed as early as possible,” she said. “Because there are so many kids that get into their senior year and they have no plans.”
By starting early, Bertrand said students can start planning out their high school classes, explore their interests and take up more dual-credit courses that are fully covered by the school in terms of tuition and books.
Amy Johnson, junior and senior school counselor, said students who take dual-credit classes have a higher chance of being successful during their college careers.
Because students have different post-high school plans, Bertrand said she hopes to cater to those individual needs by organizing tours to public, private, two-year and four-year colleges, as well as area businesses.
Bertrand said it’s important to recognize students who plan to jump straight into the workforce after high school and to provide them with options that will help them succeed. These opportunities include tuition reimbursement where a company sponsors an employee’s education to master a skill they need for the job.
Because the school didn’t receive notification of the grant until the beginning of the school year, Johnson said her department did not have much time to plan programming for this school year. However, she said there will be more planned during the 2019-2020 school year.
Bertrand and Johnson said they already have activities in mind utilizing the grant. Those plans include preparing a folder for students to put together their four-year plans with teachers, helping students with their workforce portfolios, opening up welding and Certified Nursing Assistant dual-credit courses, as well as providing honor tassels to graduating students who enlisted into the military, landed a scholarship and lined up a job with tuition reimbursement.
“It has caused us to really look closely at what we are doing and to explore some things that we would really like to do,” Johnson said. “It provides a lot of opportunities for our students because we need to look for ways that can benefit them.”
Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.