With less than 5 percent of Dallas freshmen earning a college degree by their mid-20s,
nonprofit Education is Freedom aims to bridge the gap with its comprehensive college-readiness program
By Becky Mayad
Parents, do you want your child to go to college? Believing that every young person deserves the opportunity for a higher education, Education is Freedom (EIF) is now enrolling 9th through 12th-grade students in its college-readiness program, offered free of charge at 22 Dallas ISD high schools.
Founded in 2002, EIF is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide free comprehensive college-planning services that produce life-changing results. With an expectation that all underserved students are capable of being prepared to enroll and succeed in college, EIF’s overall goals are to prevent low-income students from dropping out of high school and to provide a range of high-quality, college-preparatory tools for students and families. In addition, EIF helps students leverage private and public scholarship funds, provides opportunities for summer intern experiences, and equips them with the necessary personal and professional skills to successfully complete college.
“If you want your son or daughter to go to college but need help making it happen, then encourage your student to sign up for Education is Freedom,” said Marcia Page, President/CEO of Education is Freedom Dallas. “At EIF, we equip students – and parents – with the start-to-finish tools they need to prepare for college and navigate the complex application and financial-aid process.”
She says the free services EIF provides are important because “current data shows that less than 5 percent of Dallas ISD 9th graders earn a college degree by their mid-20s.”
EIF offers an array of programs – including monthly college-planning workshops, life-skill courses, academic recognition, college visits, parent outreach, scholarships and university partnership programs. EIF also employs full-time Higher Education Advisors (HEAs) at every high school campus to mentor, guide and support students through these activities. Moreover, because parents play a crucial role in getting students to college, numerous parent workshops are held in English and Spanish, throughout the year. EIF high school advisors work very closely with the Dallas ISD high school counselors to ensure that families are fully aware of their college and career options.
Page adds that the EIF method already has helped thousands of students. In the 2011-2012 academic year, 6,174 9th-12th grade student enrolled in EIF. Of those 6,174, 2,671 were seniors. Of those seniors enrolled in EIF, 93 percent graduated from high school and 93 percent applied for college. To date, the EIF seniors accepted to college have been offered an estimated $ 25 million in renewable public, private and institutional scholarships. They were also offered $ 7.7 million in grants, loans and work-study for their first year of college.
Participating high schools are W.H. Adamson, David W. Carter, Emmett J. Conrad, Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center, Thomas Jefferson, Justin F. Kimball, Lincoln, James Madison, Moisés E. Molina, North Dallas, Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, L.G. Pinkston, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Seagoville, Skyline, A. Maceo Smith New Tech, Irma Rangel, South Oak Cliff, H. Grady Spruce, Sunset, Wilmer-Hutchins, and W. T. White.
The program is free, and enrollment is open to anyone (9th through 12th grade) who desires assistance to graduate on time, enter college, and achieve academic success. Once enrolled, students and their parents/guardians sign an agreement that they commit to through graduation.
That commitment requires:
• complete the recommended state high school curriculum
• attend life skills and personal development classes
•work one-on-one with their Higher Education Advisor to customize a college plan
• maintain a cumulative 80 GPA
• take the SAT/ACT during their junior and senior years
• submit applications to at least four colleges and six scholarships during their senior year.
Parents are encouraged to attend two workshops per year.
At the high school level, EIF’s HEA operates a full-time office five days a week on school campuses to help students with all college preparatory activities and navigate the path for higher learning. All HEAs hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Trained by EIF Staff and their University Partners, the HEA works one-on-one with students to develop a comprehensive customized strategy to help ensure they are prepared to enter and graduate from college. They assist with applications for admission, standardized testing, financial aid, and provide access to a wealth of scholarships and special programming. As role models and mentors to EIF students, the HEA is also responsible for reaching out to parents and guardians to emphasize and educate on the value of a formal education, and strengthen their knowledge of what it takes to enter and succeed in college.
Since 2008, EIF has formed partnerships with The University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, University of North Texas at Dallas, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Jarvis Christian College and external scholarship organizations that have committed millions in merit-based scholarships exclusively for EIF students. Each university offers its own perks such as automatic enrollment or priority consideration for honor and scholar programs for eligible EIF students, plus a variety of college-transition and enrichment programs, tutoring, mentoring, and retention programming for college students.
In addition, EIF has implemented a college persistence program at Texas A&M University-Commerce and the University of North Texas where they will have an on-site EIF advisor on the respective college campuses to help EIF students overcome academic, social, and cultural challenges that generally cause students to drop out of school. Through these partnerships, EIF students will receive college success workshops, intentional advising, educational, leadership and life skill training, mentoring, tutoring assistance, peer group interactions, opportunities to interact with university faculty and staff, and parent outreach. Some re-enrollment scholarships are available as well. Rising junior and senior high school students can apply for the Mayor Rawlings’ Intern Fellows Program for a chance to gain real-world experience during full- and part-time, eight-week, paid summer internship at some of Dallas’ top corporations, nonprofits, city departments, and legal firms.
For more information or to enroll in Education is Freedom’s college-planning program, please visit http://www.educationisfreedom.org, contact the EIF office or counseling office at participating schools, or call EIF at 214-432-8550.