@$: Students from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville celebrated Wednesday the ongoing success of a college-readiness partnership with the University of Maryland, College Park, that they said has already helped improve ninth-graders’ school performance.
Under the partnership, which entered its third year in August, university students, professors and community groups have volunteered to help mentor and tutor Northwestern students while also implementing programs aimed at helping the high school students pursue a college degree or career path.
Northwestern has experienced some challenges getting students academically prepared not just for college, but to pass on to the next grade. In the 2010-11 school year, 37 percent of ninth-graders at Northwestern repeated the ninth grade. But last school year, that number decreased to 27 percent, in part due to the partnership with the University of Maryland, said Edgar Batenga, principle of Northwestern.
“We are not where we need to be yet,” Batenga said.
In March, the university and Prince George’s County officials signed a memorandum of understanding to ensure the partnership with Northwestern will be long-lasting and have specific goals, said Shane Bryan, an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer who coordinates the program between the university and Northwestern. The MOU must be renewed every year, but Bryan said he is confident it will continue for years to come.
“We want to keep finding ways to get students thinking about college,” Bryan said. “There is really no excuse since we are so close.”
Alvin Crawley, interim schoolsl superintendent for Prince George’s County, said in a speech at the ceremony that he was pleased to see the university sign the MOU.
“I am a first generation college-goer for my family,” Crawley said. “So I recognize the importance of making those connections to our university community early, so that students can have a sense of what they can expect and all the different resources and opportunities that are available through our college and university system.”
Bryan said that one of the missions of the program is to target ninth-graders to ensure that they will succeed in school. This summer volunteers launched a four-day summer bridge program for more than 30 incoming Northwestern freshman. The students were mentored about school activities at Northwestern, given their high school schedules early and shown where their classes were on campus. They also visited and toured the University of Maryland campus, where they met students who told them about their experiences in college. The students were then expected to share their knowledge with fellow ninth-graders, Bryan said.
Maria Mitiuriev, a ninth-grader at Northwestern, said she is happy to have participated in the summer bridge program, and felt it helped her understand her campus and taught her a lot about the requirements for applying to college.
“It’s very helpful,” she said. “It made you think and gave you a head start that other people did not have.”