College program assists high school dropouts

Contra Costa College has received a $325,000 grant from the Gateway to College National Network to implement a small learning community model for high school dropouts. Designed for young adults between the of ages 16 and 21 who have dropped out of high school or are behind in credits and unlikely to graduate, the program will enable students to complete their high school diploma requirements while also earning college credit toward an associate degree or certificate. Contra Costa College, located in San Pablo, is one of 35 community colleges across the country currently offering the Gateway to College program.

“All students can achieve at high levels of proficiency and we support this project,” says Dr. Wendell Greer, associate superintendent of West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD). “Our involvement with this new innovative program is consistent with our mission to maintain productive community partnerships.”

Special classes designed to get the students back on track will be set up at WCCUSD. Students will be placed into small learning communities during their first term and take classes in reading, writing, math, and college skills. After completing the term, students will transition to the main Contra Costa College campus, taking classes with the general student population.

Beginning in the fall semester with just 50 students, WCCUSD plans to serve over 250 more over the next three years. Students must first meet the specific criteria for entrance into the program and will be dually enrolled at WCCUSD and CCC until they complete their high school diploma. Students graduate from Gateway to College once they have completed their high school diploma requirements and accrue an average of 35 college credits by the time they graduate from the program, putting them well on their way to earning a college credential. Students enrolled in the program will also have their tuition and book fees paid for during their time in the program.

Throughout their enrollment in the program, students will receive one-on-one advising and support from resource specialists who will act as advisors. This part of the program was implemented by the directors to make sure students stay productive and successful throughout their tenure in the program.

“The Gateway to College program has the capacity to change lives,” said Jennifer Crowell, Gateway director. “WCCUSD students selected for this opportunity will have a second chance to participate in a positive academic experience.”

The program has received national attention for its success with offering a dropout recovery program for students at risk.  Gateway to College National Network receives support in part from several funders including the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and The Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund.

Others schools in the Bay Area also participate in the Gateway to College program including Laney College in Oakland and City College of San Francisco. The program was created by Portland Community College in 2000 and now has a national network of 35 colleges in 20 states partnering with more than 125 school districts.

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