Contacts: -Andrea Foggy-Paxton, program officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Herb Tillery, executive director, DC College Success Foundation
Primary Geographic Focus: Wards 7 and 8 in the District of Columbia
Funding: $4 million in start-up support, plus $112 million over 15 years
Duration: December 2006 and ongoing
Program Areas: Children and youth, employment, education
· Anacostia Senior High School
· Ballou Senior High School
· H.D. Woodson Senior High School
· Friendship Public Charter School Collegiate Academy
· The Maya Angelou Public Charter School
· Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School
Mission: To boost the numbers of poor but promising students who complete high and earn a post-secondary degree. The foundation provides:
The College Success Foundation began in Washington State in 2000. It was the brainchild of Bob Craves, a founder of Costco Wholesale Corporation. Craves was concerned about a study pointing to the value of post-secondary education in the 21st century job market. The study found that a larger, more educated work force would be needed by 2020 and suggested building the numbers of poor students who graduated from college. Craves launched what is now the College Success Foundation. It strives to improve the employment outlook of low-income students by boosting high-school achievement, offering college scholarships and providing mentoring support during the early college years. One of the largest contributors to the Washington-based program was William H. Gates, Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commissioned a District-based study, which showed: just one in three students in wards 7 and 8 graduated from high school; and only one in 20 earned a college degree. In response, Gates initiated the DC College Success Foundation, based on the Washington program.
How it works
Step 1. Foundation staff invites 11th-grade students from public senior high schools in wards 7 and 8 to apply for academic enrichment and college scholarships. The schools are: Anacostia Senior High School (ward 8); Ballou Senior High School (ward 8); and H.D. Woodson Senior High School (ward 7). These senior high schools will soon be restructured, having failed to meet progress measures for the past five years as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.
The foundation also accepts applications from students at three public charter schools located east of the river: Friendship Public Charter School Collegiate Academy; The Maya Angelou Public Charter School; and Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School.
Step 2. Evaluators from The Posse Foundation measure students’ performance on four essays and on interactions with peers during role plays. Going beyond academic achievement, Posse’s assessment tool measures perseverance, leadership potential, community service, financial need and students’ ability to navigate difficult situations. Based on evaluation results, DC College Success Foundation staff selects students for the program. The foundation matches selected students (known as “achiever scholar candidates”) with mentors and requires students’ participation in a week-long college-preparatory program. The foundation also offers students paid summer jobs in partnership with the District’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
Step 3. Students who graduate from high school and win acceptance at post-secondary institutions receive help applying for loans, other scholarships, and work-study programs. The foundation then provides last-dollar scholarships.
Step 4. Participating colleges and universities assign mentors to foundation students during their freshman and sophomore years. Participating post-secondary institutions include: George Mason University, Marymount, Mount St. Mary's University, Trinity, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Public school leaders support the DC College Success Foundation but have many competing priorities. The foundation has been able to work effectively by placing its own advisors in participating schools and by working directly with teachers, counselors, and students who have already been accepted to the program to recruit other young people.
In the first year of the program, 281 11th-grade students applied, and the foundation selected 201 to participate in the scholarship program. These students are now in their last year of high school. Foundation leaders hope at least 150 students will graduate, enter college and receive scholarships.