Benchmarking Report Member Profile: Partnership for the Future

December 16, 2014

Last week, NCAN released Closing the Graduation Gap: 2014 National College Access and Success Benchmarking Report, the first of an annual series. In this report, NCAN, working with the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, examines the outcomes of students served by NCAN members. Additionally, the report profiles five NCAN members who submitted data for the Benchmarking Project. This week, NCAN’s blog will highlight these five members even further through a more in-depth look. Today we examine Partnership for the Future.

Partnership for the Future (PFF), is an organization employing the whole student approach, an on-going trend and strategy in education, with those that it serves. In addition to typical access services (monthly mentoring, financial aid, scholarship, and application assistance, ACT/SAT preparation, etc.), PFF also has curricula on improving students’ other knowledge and skills, including “culture capital” with news and discussions about current events and discussions around eight “sectors” of life (e.g., emotional, intellectual, physical, professional, spiritual, etc.) that include team building workshops and leadership training. These curricula, paired with regular experiences on college campuses and an internship, aim to enhance every part of a student’s life and preparedness for postsecondary education.

Notable at PFF is the preparation for and experience in the workplace that students receive, says Charleita Richardson, President and CEO:

The unique part of our organization is that we train students an entire year before they go into the workforce…Too many organizations think students are ready to go into the workforce after a little bit of training…People may not realize how important that workforce training is…It expands what [students] think they can accomplish, which makes them more determined to go to college and more determined to go and get their degree. They [succeeded at an internship] at 16, so now they know it’s a reality. It’s something that can be done.

During their first summer with the program at the “PFF Institute,” students “spend a week on a college campus, attending personal and professional development workshops and earning Microsoft Certification in PowerPoint, Word and Excel software.”[1] In the second summer, students are placed at an internship in the community and are paid to work Monday to Thursday. On Fridays, students are with PFF for paid training days around life and professional skills. The following two summers, students return to their internships (potentially with a raise). The pay is not just for pocket money, however. Students open up 529 accounts, and PFF matches those accounts dollar for dollar up to $2,000.

Although PFF’s access services are well-developed, the success services are nascent. The current process consists of a staff member meeting a student on their college campus, no matter where they are in the country, at least once in their freshman year. The visit is supplemented with monthly webinars and tips as a touchpoint for students. “We anticipate that by the fall of 2015, the next piece of success would be pairing students with a professional mentorship in their desired field,” says Richardson.

The need to find both internships and mentors means that PFF has to be strategic with its partnerships. This is especially true because it’s a “difficult task to place students in corporate environments,” says Richardson. Companies face “several issues with regard to paying students and putting students under age 18 on their payroll.” PFF combats this through relentless community research and networking to make connections with organizations that could provide internships that would benefit students. These organizations could be local businesses or even individuals met through Rotary Clubs and other kinds of civic groups. PFF currently has over 50 business sponsors and organizations that host students.

PFF also partners with middle and high schools and colleges. The middle school partnerships are relatively new and serve as a pipeline to meet with parents. “We can share more about PFF before students even get to high school, so that they know to keep their grades up so they can apply to PFF,” says Richardson.

Staff at PFF attribute the program’s success partially to having a small, interdependent team and a desire to keep learning about new trends in the college access field. More importantly, though is an empathy for the students they serve. “95% of our staff walked this journey; we’re all first-generation students from single-parent households with challenging circumstances,” says Richardson. “We graduated from the same high schools that they graduate from. We can tell that story.”


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