In its second year in Pittsburgh,
is finding that it's a great fit for helping local 5th through 8th graders become college-bound.
"There are no entry requirements other than the will to do well," says Executive Director Wendy Etheridge Smith. "Both the child and the parent have to think that college is a good idea and that it is the goal." The nonprofit group aims to help kids "develop the culture and the character" to succeed.
Higher Achievement offers a summer program in the Hill District and Homewood, plus an afterschool program. "In order to compete effectively, students are going to graduate and go out and get more education," Smith says. "But you don't have to be a straight A fifth grader. You can be a C+ fifth grader and become a college scholar."
In fact, the program's average participant has a C+ average coming into the 5th grade. After a year in their program here, she says, 74 percent of students in math and 73 percent in reading went up a grade or maintained a high grade.
Besides academics and fun competitions surrounding them, the program offers electives in arts and recreation, from African drumming to jewelry making. The HA experience includes a three-day, two-night immersive college stay once a year, during which kids live in a dorm and take classes with college profs.
Higher Achievement, based in Washington, D.C., chose to come to Pittsburgh last year partly due to the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program and its Pathway programs designed to make sure kids are qualified for the scholarships. Today it operates in Pittsburgh Westinghouse and University Prep schools, which have the lowest percentage of Promise students.
Ninety-three percent of those who complete the HA program go to college and 76 percent of those students graduate, Smith says: "We're hoping to be a real catalyst for families and communities to reach for kids' dreams."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Wendy Etheridge Smith, Higher Achievement