Natalie Ranalli, a kindergarten teacher at Urban Pathways, believes that goal setting helps encourage discussion about high school and college. “Students begin to understand that high school graduation and college are always tied into whichever profession they choose,” she said. “If the concept of college is presented to children in a positive light at an early age, they will view graduating high school and going to college as a reward.”

Students continue this planning process throughout middle and high school. At these grade levels, students begin to track their attendance, any behavior infractions and individual grades in each class, all while continuing to set specific goals for themselves and their learning with the help of mentors.

“The portfolios give students the opportunity to really take control of their own learning,” said Elizabeth Gingrich, department chair of entrepreneurship.

Individual attention at Urban Pathways does not stop there. Mentoring programs such as BAAM (Benefitting African American Males) and WISE (Women in Sync Everywhere) pair male and female high school students with adult community members. College preparation is the focus of these mentor-student relationships, just like in the classroom. The mentors are available to provide wisdom and guidance to students, not only during their high school years, but throughout the first year of college as well.

Beyond that, staff members in the College Readiness Office are on hand to help students plan for their future college careers. The College Readiness Office offers support for students in completing both college and scholarship applications, navigating financial aid details and exploring summer employment and internship opportunities.

Currently, the three staff members from the College Readiness Office work solely with the 6-12 students, beginning with career and personality interest inventories in grade six. Starting this fall, the Office will expand their reach to the elementary level. With help from K-5 level teachers, the College Readiness staff will work to incorporate additional college- and career-focused lessons and activities into the elementary classrooms.

Ranalli recognizes the importance of an early introduction to the future at Urban Pathways. “Within an urban population, college is often viewed as unachievable, especially when a child is the first person within a family to graduate high school or college,” she said.

“If children are choosing college as a long-term goal while in kindergarten, and college is continually reinforced for the next 12 years, students are more likely to feel that college is attainable.”

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