CHICAGO–Kennedy-King College’s president, Arshele Stevens, participated in the White House’s second annual College Opportunity Day of Action this month.
On Dec. 4th, Stevens, along with other college and university presidents and higher education leaders stood in support of President Obama’s latest plan to prepare more students for college.
The White House’s College Opportunity Day participants agreed to commit to at least one action. The four areas included: building networks of colleges around promoting completion, creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
In Chicago, African American students make up 37 percent of City Colleges of Chicago students, while at Kennedy King, they’re the majority. The Englewood campus is made up of 97 percent of African Americans and Hispanics.
Stevens said that most of the students are not your traditional college student. They’re in their mid 30’s, they’re single parents and they come from violent stricken neighborhoods. They want to receive more education so that they can improve their lives.
“There are so many negative stories about what goes on in Englewood and the statistics say that the odds are against them,” she said.
At Kennedy-King, 98 percent of entering students are not prepared for college, leading the college administration to find new ways to prepare them. Efforts to change the developmental education programs, as well as other changes have been found successful.
For example, students have the option of using an embedded tutor, which is a tutor who sits in the class the student needs help in. This allows the tutor to familiarize himself with the instructor’s style and know exactly which areas of the material to focus on in the tutoring session. It was implemented last year.
Stevens said the embedded tutoring has been very successful so far.
There have also been more advisers added. This offers students more one-on-one time, which is crucial when mapping out their graduation plan.
Kennedy-King’s overall graduation and transfer rates have improved. They rose from 34 percent in 2007 to 51 percent in 2011.
The college is on the right track because it was named a finalist for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. It recognizes community colleges across the country for high achievement and performance. The award is given every two years to colleges that have increased performance levels in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.
Kennedy-King is one of 10 finalists. The winner will receive a $1 million prize that will be awarded in March. Community colleges across the nation will learn about the winner’s best approach strategies.
“We are truly honored that Kennedy-King has been selected from among more than 1,000 community colleges in the country to be included in the round of 10 Aspen prize finalists,” said Chancellor Cheryl Hyman. “This recognition is testament to the tremendous work our faculty, staff and students have done to reinvent City Colleges so that all of our students are prepared for further college and careers.”
Stevens said that it’s easier for students to do well, when the faculty can relate.
“We have lots of faculty members who are very familiar with the plight of the average Kennedy-King student and that extra understanding helps,” she said.
“Our students see Kennedy-King as a beacon of hope,” Stevens said.