It's back to school and my mind returns to a great organization that I got involved with last year: Marathon Scholars. We identify high-potential, low-income students in the 4th grade and walk with them, providing them mentoring and a college scholarship, until they complete their bachelor's degree. We do that through an interesting approach that starts and ends with results in mind.
First, we measure and hold ourselves accountable to the right thing: college graduations. Not college enrollments. The statistics around low income and first generation college student graduation rates are deplorable and often these same students, with great potential and good intentions, apply and are accepted into college, but then cut their academic careers short of a degree (and the earning potential and opportunity that brings), but take with them student loans that can further burden their future. Marathon Scholars takes seriously their commitment, and that of the student scholar and their parents, to complete college and is delivering great results. Scholars in our program are 6x more likely than their peers to complete their degree.
Secondly, we start at the right time: 4th grade. We select students in the Portland Metro and SW Washington area through an application progress and pair them with mentoring resources to help with individualized guidance, advising, and college prep programming for the next 12 years. This is critical for students who might be the first in their family to ever consider a college education. In addition, they receive the first of their college scholarship, donated month-by-month over by a sponsor who also partners in their potential. 4th grade might seem like too early to be talking about college, but it seemed to me to be the perfect time. Before they must persevere through advanced math and English classes. Before they start making life-impacting decisions that would later affect their college readiness. Before they are told that they are not college material, Marathon Scholars reminds them that they are!
I welcome you to join me in this good work. You can participate in many different ways, giving your time or resources to this great cause. Our scholars are in need of mentors, who can work with our students at different phases of their educational journey to help them arrive at a new and promising destination: the life of a college graduate! Contact the staff at Marathon Scholars for more information about volunteer opportunities.
You can also follow Marathon Scholars on Twitter, Facebook, subscribe to this blog, and via our email newsletter which you can access on this website. While you are there, you can also check out the great video of what mentoring means to these scholars. And mark your calendar for the upcoming gala fundraiser on March 4, 2017. We’d love to see you there!