“EnAbled for College” program Helps Students Make the Move to College

(This piece was first published on the Baylor School of Education blog “Instant Impact.” – ALW)

by Taylor Ward

Results from the first three years of the Baylor School of Education’s EnAbled for College program show that high-school students working with trained mentors are reaching the next level of education.

Research has proven that at-risk and disabled high school students are less likely to pursue a post-secondary education. And without that education, many continue to live below the poverty line.

The Baylor School of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology is working to change that with a grant from the AT&T Foundation. Through the EnAbled for College mentorship program, now in its fourth year, Baylor graduate students mentor high-school students in the greater Waco community.

EnAbled for College serves about 50 high schoolers each year, and 100 percent of the program participants who graduated in May 2017 applied to a post-secondary educational institution. Of those seniors who applied, 97 percent were accepted to college.

The project began in 2014, modeled after the AT&T Foundation Building a Grad Nation campaign. In its first three years, the EnAbled for College program served:

  • 151 students in McLennan County in Central Texas
  • 48 percent of those students had a disability,
  • 71 percent were from low socioeconomic homes, and
  • 74 percent were first generation students.

Baylor’s Dr. Tamara Hodges spearheads the project as a co-principal investigator for the AT&T grant. She is a senior lecturer in the Department of Educational Psychology, a licensed psychologist and a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology.

“These kids couldn’t see past high school,” Hodges said. “I think the crux and the heart of this program is watching people’s lives change — knowing the significant obstacles facing some of these kids and now knowing that they are in college? That’s success.”

During the program’s first three years, mentors were spread across six different high school campuses. For the 2017-2018 school year, the EnAbled for College program is focused on two local high schools in McGregor ISD and Waco ISD.

The program seeks to serve:

  • Low-Income Students
  • Minority Students
  • Students with Disabilities
  • English Language Learners
  • Low-Graduation-Rate High Schools

Dr. Terrill Saxon, Interim Dean for the School of Education, is co-principal investigator and has worked with EnAbled for College since its inception.

“These kids are viewed by their teachers, principals and counselors as having great academic potential, but they need additional resources in order to make their post-secondary dreams a reality,” Saxon said. “It has been a wonderful experience seeing it grow into a project that directly benefits local high-school students.”

Mentors are the heart of the program because of the relationships they build with their students. Each mentor works with 10 to 20 students, and they meet with them in one-on-one sessions as well as in group settings at least once a week. They discuss everything from how to fill out a college application to how to deal with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“Like many of the students I mentor, I didn’t have the available resources to guide me toward pursuing post-secondary education,” said student mentor Crystal Posada, a master’s student in Educational Psychology. “As a first-generation student, I was clueless about college and everything it had to offer. I am excited to be that someone for these students and help them see a future past their high school graduation.”

The mentors benefit from the EnAbled for College program as well. Through the AT&T grant program, 22 graduate students in the Department of Educational Psychology have worked as mentors.

“Mentoring has highlighted the challenges that many of my students face, but it has also shown me just how capable, motivated and deserving they are,” said mentor Jacy Latta, a graduate student pursuing an Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology. “Walking alongside them as they prepare for their future has changed my life, and hopefully it’s empowering them to be seekers of positive change for themselves and for their communities.”

And Dr. Hodges is determined to see the success of the program.

“The way out of poverty is through education,” she said.

Taylor Ward is a senior journalism, public relations major at Baylor University. Taylor is a United States Air Force military brat and has lived in six different places while growing up until her father retired to Cibolo, TX where she graduated high school.


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