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Providing a Path to a Diploma

Fall 2010 | Archives

Program seeks to re-engage high school dropouts

Some students dropped out because of an illness. Others, faced with the challenges of teenage motherhood, missed too many days of school. For whatever reason, they fell behind and became part of Omaha's 20 percent of high school students who do not graduate.

MCC is offering high school dropouts ages 16-21 a second chance at education this fall through the Gateway to College program. Unlike a GED program, Gateway to College students earn college credits while working toward their high school diploma. "We help students transition from being an unsuccessful high school student to being a successful, responsible college student," said Kyle Kinney, a Student Resource Specialist with the program. "We teach students how to fend for themselves as they continue their college education."

The program works by providing "intrusive support" for students. Elements of the program include a first-year learning community, encouragement of good academic habits and life skills and individualized academic support. "Because of our involvement in every aspect of the students' transition to college, there are fewer cracks for a student to fall through," Kinney said. "We know what is going on not only academically but personally as well. Developing a relationship allows us to provide accountability and motivate."

Now a national network operating at 27 colleges in 16 states, Gateway to College began at Portland Community College in 2000. In 2003, the program caught the attention of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the replication of Gateway to College as part of its Early College High School Initiative. MCC is the first college in Nebraska to offer the program with Omaha Public Schools (OPS) as its K-12 partner.

MCC collaborated with OPS and the Sherwood Foundation to become part of the Gateway to College National Network. For information on the program, call (402) 457-2746 or visit www.mccneb.edu/gtc.

Gary Griffin and Kyle Kinney

As Student Resource Specialists, Gary Griffin and Kyle Kinney will work closely with students as advisors, mentors and coaches.


Q & A with Student Resource Specialists

Gateway to College provides "intrusive support" to help students become successful. Kyle Kinney and Gary Griffin talk about their role.

Q: What is intrusive support?
Kinney: Intrusive support means being involved in students' lives—not just academically but personally. Students can expect us to be "in their business." We support students as academic advisors, guidance counselors, life coaches, resource managers, instructors and mentors.

Q: What makes Gateway to College different?
Kinney: The level of accountability. Students quickly realize that Gateway to College is not the easy way out of high school. It requires hard work, but the payoff is worth it.
Griffin: Our students need to have affirmative educational goals and a desire to learn. They need to be committed to giving the time and effort required to be successful in college.
Kinney: In the end they earn their high school diploma and college credits—and they also learn to be responsible for their own success. That's empowerment.

Q: What causes students to drop out?
Kinney: The majority of our applicants dropped out because they fell so far behind in their education. Oftentimes, an event or situation occurred which interrupted their high school education. Many applicants have reported they felt lost in the crowd, nobody cared if they were attending school or there were just too many distractions.

Q: What are your hopes for Gateway students?
Griffin: My hope is to empower students to make positive, informed decisions that not only improve the quality of their lives but will also enhance the lives of their families for generations to follow.

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