PROVIDENCE – AISR's District & Systems Transformation Co-Director Angela Romans traveled to the White House today to take part in a day-long Reach Higher Initiative summit. She was part of a team of Providence Children and Youth Cabinet (CYC) members that also included Danielle Parrillo from Providence Public School District (PPSD), Maria Carvalho from the College Crusade, and Michael Joyce from Rhode Island’s Division of Higher Education (formerly RIHEAA).
The team was invited to the event by First Lady Michelle Obama, whose Reach Higher Initiative focuses on partnerships between states, school districts, and communities that positively impact college access for underserved students. The invitation is testament to the good work being done in Providence to foster and support these partnerships.
In 2014, the CYC set an ambitious goal – to increase the FAFSA completion rates in Providence from 67 percent to 73 percent among all graduating seniors by June 2015. If a high school senior simply completes the FAFSA, he/she is 50 percent more likely to attend college. Not only does filling out the form help students get the money to pay for college, it empowers them to consider college a real possibility. Nationally, the Obama administration is working to make the FAFSA more accessible and easier to fill out; historically, completing the form has been challenging, particularly for first-generation college-goers and families who do not speak English as a first language.
One important move the administration has made is to give states and school districts permission to share information with local nonprofits about which specific students need help completing the FAFSA. In Providence, CYC member organizations (like the College Crusade and College Visions) partnered with PPSD and RIHEAA to collect this data and find out which students were on track to complete the form and which were not – and to provide supports for students and families to finish the form. A FAFSA completion challenge pitted Providence high schools against one another to see which high school could have the highest completion rate.Not only was the citywide goal exceeded (74 percent), the winner of the challenge, Mt. Pleasant High School, achieved 83 percent completion, up from one of the lowest to the second highest in the district. This is a compelling example of people working together across organizations so that more students can afford and attend college.
About the CYC
The CYC is a cross-sector coalition of 150 members and 60 children- and youth-serving organizations that is designed to ensure that all children and youth in the City of Providence, from cradle to career, will have access to a coordinated, collaborative, integrated system of educational, social, physical, and behavioral health services. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University is the anchor institution and home of the Children and Youth Cabinet.