Ice cream sundaes seal the deal
by Gary Kaplan
The end of the year is a time for reflection and assessment. Looking back over these past two years, we have much to be grateful for. We have survived the greatest disruption in memory and students are now enrolling in JFYNet college and career readiness at a pre-pandemic pace. We are in this positive position thanks to the unwavering loyalty of our supporters.
“It takes a village,” the adage says, but a village needs villagers to sustain it. In our village, the most important citizens are the students. I think of a young man named Andre with whom I indulged in ice cream sundaes a few weeks ago. We were celebrating the end of the first semester of our early college program. He had passed his college course and was looking ahead to the next semester and beyond.
When the idea of early college was first presented to Andre he said it was not for him. He wasn’t going to college. No one in his family had ever gone to college. His parents had immigrated and had a hard struggle just to provide a home for him and his siblings. He dreamed of being a doctor and saving lives, but there was no way he could afford college, much less medical school. And besides, his high school grades were not exactly straight As.
One of our roles in high schools is to work with students on their college and career plans. Not all students have plans. Many don’t know that those plans can now include early college, and that the early college initiative is expressly designed for students who are not on the traditional college track. It is still a relatively new option, and many students feel it to be a step too high.
Our early college specialist, Meredith, talked with Andre early in the semester. She explained the importance of college in terms of future earning potential. She broke down the actual costs of community college and state university and showed how those costs can be reduced by early college credits, grants and scholarships. She demystified the academic level of first year college courses and outlined the support he could count on from his high school teacher and from JFY. She promised to be available whenever he needed help, even to edit his term paper if necessary.
“You know what,” he laughed as we spooned up the dregs of chocolate syrup, “She was right. It wasn’t that hard. I did ask for help a few times and she was always right there, just like she said. But I handled it. I got my B. And now I know I’m going to college. I’m already there.”
After a year and a half of disruption, instruction is finally returning to the classroom. Our online tools and strategies have become permanent features of post-Covid pedagogy. The most important priority is to keep students engaged in their class work and moving ahead in the acquisition of grade-level skills, from pre-high school to graduation and on to college and career. Teachers and students need the expertise, resources and support of JFYNetWorks to meet this critical challenge.
We are back on track to serve more than 4000 young people this year—more than before the pandemic. All the citizens of our village—school partners, JFY board and staff, public, private and individual funders, and most of all students—are integral participants in our pursuit of educational and economic equity. All our villagers can count on us to persevere in that pursuit, and we are grateful to be able to offer many years’ worth of thanks to all for helping us keep to the mission, and the faith. The economic and social stakes could not be higher.
Happy Holidays and best wishes for a New Year in which dreams deferred awaken into goals achieved.
Gary Kaplan is the executive director of JFYNetWorks.
Other posts authored by Gary can be found here.
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