Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 15
A Taste of Life
At a College
FROM TOP: Betty Torres
strums a guitar in her
bedroom in Mission,
Texas. Looking on,
from left to right,
are cousins Krystal
and Betty's sister,
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Top high school students have long
ventured onto campuses across the
country in the summer to get a taste
of college life and real college coursework. While those trips have been a
staple of affluent families' collegeprep agendas, many high schools
and colleges are trying harder to include students who might need a bit
of extra help in planning for college
and adjusting to campus life: those
like Betty, with little or no history of
college-going in their families.
Many summer programs aim to
build weak academic muscles, to help
students avoid the remedial classes
that can slow or stall their college
progress. Others, like the ones Betty
attended this summer, are designed
to let academic stars soar. Both kinds
of programs also aim to nourish teenagers' college aspirations and plans
and give them early practice with the
time-management and self-advocacy
skills that can sink some freshmen.
Research shows that summer programs can boost the chances that
students will apply to, and enroll in,
college, that they'll perform better
when they get there, and that they'll
be less likely to bail out after their
freshman year. Students who attend
summer programs are more likely
to have good study skills and more
faith that they can handle college.
"Doing better academically can
be influenced by having more confidence, a familiarity with campus
life," said Elisabeth A. Barnett, who's
studied the transition to college as
a senior research associate at the
Community College Research Center at Columbia University.
"Getting that experience early,
with the support of people who are
Alyssa Schukar for Education Week
Delcia Lopez for Education Week
already conquered a weeklong college course in medical research at
Brown University in Providence,
R.I., where she delighted in dissecting fruit flies and flatworms.
Now, she was dipping her toe into
the second: a two-week immersion in astronomy at Notre Dame,
where she was geeking out over
decimal points of mass, force, and
inertia, and dragging herself out of
bed for nighttime stargazing.
In less than two weeks, Betty had
traveled 3,000 miles, navigating big,
confusing airport terminals and
hailing shuttles and cabs by herself.
The girl who'd never spent a night
away from her parents had cracked
the codes of campus maps, zigzagging from dorm rooms to classrooms.
She was up early, busy constantly,
and totally on top of her studies. OK,
so there were some little stabs of
homesickness. But they softened in
the tumult and triumph of her summer college experiences.
"At first, I was completely terrified,"
Betty said of her arrival at Brown,
and then Notre Dame. "I was thrown
out there and I made the best of it. I
feel good. I see that I can do it."
helping you find your way, can be
particularly important for students
who are the first in their families to
go to college," she added.
Betty will be the first in her family
to earn a bachelor's degree and the
first to leave home for college. Her résumé shows she's been getting ready:
a 4.0 grade point average at her highflying charter school, IDEA College
Preparatory, in Mission, Texas. Five
Advanced Placement classes finished
and five more on the runway. She
also tutors for the National Honor
Society, volunteers at the library, and
plays Spanish classical guitar.
But a tangle of worries buzzed in
her head as she got ready to board
a plane for Brown. There were the
universal ones: Would she make
friends? Would she be able to find
her way around?
And there were jitters more specific to Betty and her life tapestry.
How would she feel on campuses
that are bastions of wealth and
privilege, dominated by white faces?
Her American-born mother, a homemaker, never finished high school.
Her father, born in Mexico, holds an
associate's degree and manages a
Best Buy store. Her arrival at Notre
Dame only confirmed her anxiety.
"It seems like everyone I talk to
here, their parents have Ph.D.s," she
said. "They have a good foundation,
parents they can ask questions of.
My mom never finished high school."
'Go For the Best'
Betty is troubled, too, by the feeling that she'll be abandoning her
family responsibilities when she
goes away to college. She helps take
care of her older sister, who has
autism. She makes sure her baby
sister is dressed and her younger
brother gets off to school. Who will
do those things when she goes
"Betty understands how the trajectory of her family's life may change
with her seeking a higher education," said Arianna Robles, the college counselor at Betty's high school.
Betty's father, Antonio Torres,
wishes he could vaporize those worries. Sure, he and his wife, Beatrice,
haven't exactly rested easy since
Betty left; they were worried sick
when she missed a shuttle connection to campus and caught a ride
with someone she barely knew. They
constantly check their cellphones for
updates, even though dutiful Betty
But they're getting used to this new
reality and don't want it to hinder
their daughter's college dreams.
"She told me, 'Oh, maybe I
shouldn't go,' and I told her, you
need to go for the best you can be.
You'll never know what you could
be if you don't go for it," Torres said.
That's the message Betty's been
getting at her school, too, since 6th
grade. The IDEA charter school network, which serves 24,000 students
in 44 Texas schools, takes a "white
glove" approach to college counseling. With a 30-to-1 student-counselor
ratio, the college-mindset drumbeat
starts early and grows louder as students progress through school.
By their junior year, they're researching colleges to find the best fit
and taking bus trips to campuses.
Betty and her classmates have already walked the quads of Northwestern University and the University of
Chicago, Tulane University, and Louisiana State University. Sixty percent
attend summer college programs,
which IDEA finances with a federal
grant. 100 percent are accepted to college, and 99 percent enroll.
Overall, IDEA charter students
apply to schools that are a good academic match for them, but a common speed bump arises from their
Rio Grande Valley demographic, said
Sari Wilson, the director of IDEA's
Collegiate Summer Away Program.
"Since most come from a rural area,
our biggest push is to get them to actually enroll and set foot on campus,"
Wilson said. "Often, they don't feel
comfortable, like they belong." Summer programs can show the students
"that they can and will succeed if
they go to those schools," she said.
Seeking a 'Fit'
Betty's experiences at Brown and
Notre Dame have shown her that she
certainly can feel at home in the halls
of academia; she's done well in these
credit-bearing classes. But they've
also shown her how much a university's style and student population
can make a difference in her sense of
At Brown, she was part of a stew
of young people from many walks
of life and racial and ethnic backgrounds. The university's various
clubs held "workshops" to give the
teenagers a taste of campus life.
Betty was dazzled by the discussions about politics and values,
Brown's freewheeling energy, its
celebration of multiculturalism.
"One of the [workshops] I went
to was by the Latino organization,"
she said. "We talked about our experiences, about the discrimination
we face, and how to turn it to something positive. We danced. We ate
pan dulce. I loved it."
At Notre Dame, she felt a little
out of place, with few nonwhite
faces around her. She loved the
challenge of her astronomy class
and enjoyed the nonacademic parts
of the program, too, such as a visit
to a nearby residential program for
students with special needs, where
all the young people shared pizza
Betty found Notre Dame's students and staff friendly, but she
didn't feel she clicked as well with
the university's more structured,
reserved sensibility. It's clear that
the two contrasting experiences are
seeping into her college thinking.
A diverse student body will also be
very important to her, she said.
From left to right,
Torres and classmates
Erin Collins, of
of Atlanta, listen
to instructions for an
at the University
of Notre Dame.
Paulette Curtis is intensely
aware the role diversity plays in
prospective students' thinking. As
the supervisor of Notre Dame's precollege programs, she is working to
include more minority, low-income,
and first-generation students. She
knows the $3,400 price tag of the
Summer Scholars Program, which
Betty attended, keeps many highachieving, underrepresented students outside the door.
Notre Dame can afford full or partial scholarships for fewer than 50
of the 300-plus high school students
who do two-week dives into global
health, poverty, Russian literature,
archaeology, and other topics here
during the Summer Scholars program, she said. Outside organizations finance the cost for only a few
It pains her, because she believes
programs like this provide a powerful kind of college preparation, especially for students whose families or
high schools can't.
"The program is really about developing the sensibility for college,"
Curtis said. "What does college-level
thinking require? What does it mean
to be responsible for yourself? Many
of these kids find it hard to wake up
at 7:30, and they want to be walked
to class. We're trying to help them
learn to manage their workload
along with all the other things we
have them doing and offering them a
more intensive academic experience
than they'd get in high school."
Betty agrees enthusiastically
that she experienced those things
this summer. And she said they enriched and expanded her world and
made her feel more ready to travel
far from home as a college student a
year from now.
"In the [Rio Grande] Valley, it's
kind of a bubble," she said. "I want
to be free of that and experience the
world for what it really is. Being so
far away for a while, doing all of the
things at Brown and Notre Dame
gets me more excited for that and
see that it really can happen."
Coverage of the experiences of low-income,
high-achieving students is supported in
part by a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke
Foundation, at www.jkcf.org. Education
Week retains sole editorial control over
the content of this coverage.
Visit the HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND blog, which
tracks news and trends on this issue.
EDUCATION WEEK | July 20, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 15
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - July 20, 2016
Education Week - July 20, 2016
First-Generation College-Goers Try Campus Life
Dose of Empathy Found To Cut Suspension Rates
Vouchers Put Some Parents in Squeeze on Spec. Ed. Rights
Data Loom Large in Quest for New School-Quality Indicator
Detroit District Splits To Shore Up Schools
News in Brief
Common Core Poses Logistical Challenges In Writing Instruction
Longtime Leader in Education Journalism Passes the Baton
Schools Prepare to Confront Questions on Race, Policing
Blogs of the Week
Landmark Equity Study Turns 50
A Persistent Divide
Digital Device Choice Has Noticeable Impact On Test Performance
Will FAFSA Changes Speed Up Aid Awards?
U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015-16 Term
States, Districts Eyeing Chance to Craft Innovative Tests
K-12 Issues: Where the Candidates Stand
Setting the Education Department’s Direction
Blogs of the Week
ALICE JOHNSON CAIN: ESSA Could Leave Vulnerable Students in Limbo
ERICA FRANKENBERG & LILIANA M. GARCES: What Fisher v. University of Texas Means for K-12 Districts
SAUL DREVITCH: The Wisdom of an 8th Grader
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
ADAM KIRK EDGERTON: K-12 Schools: We Have Our Own ‘Brexit’ Problem
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Detroit District Splits To Shore Up Schools
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 2
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 3
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Common Core Poses Logistical Challenges In Writing Instruction
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Longtime Leader in Education Journalism Passes the Baton
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Schools Prepare to Confront Questions on Race, Policing
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 9
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Landmark Equity Study Turns 50
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 11
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - A Persistent Divide
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Digital Device Choice Has Noticeable Impact On Test Performance
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Will FAFSA Changes Speed Up Aid Awards?
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 15
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 16
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 17
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 18
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 19
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 20
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - States, Districts Eyeing Chance to Craft Innovative Tests
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - K-12 Issues: Where the Candidates Stand
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 23
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Setting the Education Department’s Direction
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Blogs of the Week
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 26
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 27
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - ERICA FRANKENBERG & LILIANA M. GARCES: What Fisher v. University of Texas Means for K-12 Districts
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - SAUL DREVITCH: The Wisdom of an 8th Grader
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 31
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 32
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 34
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - 35
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - ADAM KIRK EDGERTON: K-12 Schools: We Have Our Own ‘Brexit’ Problem
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - CT1
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - CT2
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - CT3
Education Week - July 20, 2016 - CT4