KIPP Tech Valley Middle School, one of the charters to be operated by the innovative KIPP Academy group, has partnered with Syracuse University in an effort to help its students get on the path to college education. Tech Valley, which serves some of Albany, New York's poorest and most ethnically-diverse communities, will now allow its fifth-graders to travel to the university campus for a day every fall to experience what life in college is like.
Syracuse has previously committed to offering between 15 and 20 enrollment slots to KIPP graduates that meet its academic admission standards. Although this applies to nearly 37,000 KIPP students nationwide, the focus will be on recruiting out of the Albany area due to its geographic proximity to the university.
Syracuse has a need-blind admissions policy and, through grants and loans, will work to meet the financial needs of all KIPP students it enrolls. Many will be the first in their family to attend college.
Many high schools around the country form partnerships with local colleges and universities, but such partnership with a middle school is unique. However, for KIPP, this is just another step towards its goal of college attendance for all its graduates.
College readiness is a focus of the school, which has pupils in grades five through eight. College banners hang in classrooms throughout the building on Northern Boulevard. The focus on higher education for students who are four years from even applying to college makes it seem like it should be their destiny, said Dustin Mitchell, the school's executive director.
"It gives the kids a reason why they're working so hard," he said. "It gives us a common language to talk with the kids."
Tatiana Cordero, a 17-year-old who attended KIPP in fifth grade, looks back on her experience visiting a college campus fondly. She said that the day on campus gave her a new perspective of what her life would be like if she ended up attending college. It serves as a motivating force for her when struggles in school had her thinking of giving up and dropping out. Cordero is currently a junior at the Albany Leadership Charter High School and says she plans to apply to Syracuse next year.
Jason Brooks, a Syracuse alumnus and a member of KIPP Tech Valley's board of trustees, said KIPP students have been prepared well for college, so colleges know they are getting quality applicants. He has led the annual Syracuse trips for seven years and said the first students will be seniors this year. He said a number are planning to apply to Syracuse.