The Gates Foundation states that 95% of Middle School students say they would like to attend college, but in Dallas ISD, only 8% of seniors will ever graduate from college. Due to a variety of factors, the average middle school student aspiration fails to matriculate into college execution. Fortunately, a unique program at Woodrow Wilson High School called College Bound helps to bridge the gap between the hopes of Middle School and the realities of getting into and being successful in college.
College Bound is a Saturday enrichment program created to help students from non-college backgrounds apply to and be successful in college, and was founded by Woodrow teachers Zachary Dearing and Megan Bekavac, who is no longer at Woodrow. Dearing, who is in his second year teaching at Woodrow via Teach for America, is a Dallas Native who attended MIT in Boston and returned home to give back and teach Algebra I at Woodrow.
The program focuses on academic skills, such as SAT and ACT preparation, but more importantly it pairs high school students with college student mentors. These mentors help the high school students understand how to be successful in college and utilize office hours, tutoring, and other university aides. Additionally, the students work through a program called Education Opens Doors, which helps teach students the soft skills and provide a step by step process that lead to college and career success.
Woodrow students are nominated for College Bound by their teachers as students who are driven and committed to success, and join the program as freshmen or sophomores. The 25 mentors are selected from education-minded SMU students through the Teach for America recruiter, Mustang Heroes, as well as the College Bound Executive Board, both of which are on-campus organizations at SMU. These mentors commit to 15 Saturdays a year and are essential to the program’s success.
In addition to the Saturday sessions, College Bound students take two field trips a year to college campuses to experience what life is like there. Joe Torres is a sophomore at Woodrow Wilson High School who is one of the 35 students who participates in College Bound. “After being on a college campus, the feeling of independence and freedom was very enticing. I am a very independent person, and I look forward to the independence of the college lifestyle.” The students were able to explore SMU’s campus, complete leadership training, tour the Bush Presidential Library & Museum, and reflect how each of them can be leaders in their schools.
Torres was one of the original College Bound students in the first cohort, and hopes to attend college locally and pursue a degree in Art or Graphic Design. “The vocabulary development and writing assistance have been the most helpful to my college and high school development,” Torres reports. “It has prepared me well for college and life itself.”
College Bound would not be possible without the financial and curricular support of Teach for America DFW, Woodrow Principal Kyle Richardson, as well as PTA president Randy Patterson and the Woodrow Wilson Community Foundation.
If you would like to help support College Bound and the experience it gives Woodrow students, you can make a donation online at http://donate.cbdfw.org/, making sure designation restrictions are selected as “College Bound.”
*Editor’s note: This article was written by Woodrow Wilson teacher Will Maddox, who occasionally writes stories about Woodrow students, staff, programs and other news.
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