Indiana University of Pennsylvania has begun a new initiative to increase the number of African-American students pursuing post-secondary education. In a partnership with the Pittsburgh Public School district, the Promise Plus initiative will help ensure more students take advantage of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship.

EAGER TO LEARN— Lincoln Elementary students surround David Lind, director for the Center for Video Technology, IUP Department of Communications Media, at the university’s television station.

“The IUP Promise Plus initiative is an example of IUP’s commitment to outreach educational attainment,” IUP President Tony Atwater said. “We take great pride in working with Heinz Endowment to build successful futures for elementary and high school students in the greater Pittsburgh region.”


In June, IUP received a $160,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments to fund their initiative, which will increase outreach efforts and focus on retention of students attending the university on a Promise scholarship.

The initiative will focus on reaching out to African-American students through IUP student and faculty involvement in PPS classrooms. It will also involve a pre-college program to prepare both students and parents for the application process and allow students to earn college credits while still in high school.

“IUP has a strong existing partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, including the establishment of two professional development schools and membership in the executive board of the School District University Collaborative,” Atwater said. “We also have a long and successful history of university partnerships which enhance student success at the pre-college level.”

IUP has already begun their outreach efforts in PPS schools. In November they brought students from Fulton Academy and Lincoln Elementary to IUP’s campus.

Many students toured the university’s student-operated radio and television stations, athletic facilities and one of the new residence halls. Students were also given information about future college planning from the deans of each of IUP’s colleges.

In support of the PPS effort to increase mentoring, sixth-graders from Lincoln were partnered with IUP student mentors who volunteer at the university’s African-American Cultural Center. They will begin e-mentoring in the spring term.

“I am very thankful that they’re reaching out,” said Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril. “A portion of the program targets students while they’re in high school to get college on their radar.”

Although the Pittsburgh Promise isn’t directly involved in the Promise Plus initiative, Ghubril said he hopes IUP’s efforts will increase the number of African-American students eligible for the Promise scholarship.

“That’s a priority that all of us have, growing the number and percentage of African-American students and males particularly those who pursue and complete post-secondary education,” Ghubril said. “So my hope is that it’s hugely impactful.” Ghubril also said IUP’s focus on retaining students once they enter college is a key component of the program. He said he would like to see more local universities increase retention efforts.

“Most universities have some outreach component that aims to increase retention rates. It’s certainly a priority of the Pittsburgh Promise to light a fire under all of these institutions,” Ghubril said. “We hope they will pay a little extra attention and ensure students’ experience at their campus is successful.”

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