By Jessica Lyons
According to Ellen Lehman, the Director of Development at Eastside College Preparatory School, the school's mission is to open 'new doors for students historically underrepresented in higher education.'
'Our challenging and engaging curriculum enables students to discover their intellectual strengths, sharpen their academic skills, and embrace new opportunities in a culture of learning that supports the potential of every student to enter and succeed in a four-year college and beyond,' Lehman said.
There are currently 330 students in sixth to twelfth grade who attend Eastside. Many of these students hail from East Palo Alto and nearby Menlo Park, although the student body is also made up of some students from other underserved Bay Area communities.
When admitting students, the school looks for students who want to be at Eastside and who will commit to completing Eastside's challenging program. The school also gives priority admission to students from low-income families who will be the first family member to attend college.
'The children of college graduates are far more likely to go to college than the children of those who did not have the opportunity. We believe that students who become first in their families to go to college thus create a ripple effect, in their own families and in their community,' Lehman said. 'Eastside was founded in 1996, and after 18 years we're already seeing this effect, as the question becomes not 'Will I go to college?' but 'Which college will I go to?'
Eastside has set high standards for all of its students, which include completing a college preparation curriculum. Lehman said that the school provides many layers of support to the students to help them succeed. These resources include one-on-one-tutoring, math and literacy resource programs, a summer enrichment program, and a three-year college readiness program. Eastside also has a boarding program available to students.
To date, 100% of Eastside's graduates have been admitted to a four-year college. Additionally, the school's college completion rate is 80%, which Lehman noted 'is especially significant by contrast to the nationwide college completion for first-gen students, which is dismal at 11%.' She also noted that 'the overall college completion rate for all students from all walks of life is just 50%.'
Lehman attributed this success rate to the school's combination of high expectations and large amounts of support, which she said helps each student reach his or her potential.
'A key component of our students' success is our faculty: we seek out highly qualified teachers who are committed to our mission, and we do all we can to create a supportive environment that enables them to do their best work in the classrooms and with our students,' she added.
Lehman noted that Eastside's alumni have said they feel ready for college after finishing the Eastside College Preparatory School program. Even though Eastside has prepared its students for college, the school's work doesn't end there. Lehman said that they find it's important to keep supporting students even after they've graduated and moved on to college.
'Our alumni support program thus plays a crucial role in helping our students beat the odds facing first-generation college students,' said Lehman. 'Our alumni program staff work closely with our alumni while they are in college, preparing them for each new year ahead by helping them set personal and academic goals, counseling them through challenging situations, assuring that their financial aid is sufficient, and helping them access resources on their college campuses. Currently, 80% of our alumni are on track to graduate from college or have earned their bachelor's degrees, and we hope to improve this statistic even more.'
Looking to the future, Lehman said that Eastside will continue to serve students in need while also looking for ways they can improve their offerings.
'We hope to continue to grow, making it possible for more students who will be the first in their families to go to college to benefit from all the opportunities we offer here,' Lehman said. 'In addition, we learn more each year about ways we can strengthen our programs, and we are committed to continually improving.'
Lehman explained that one of the challenges faced by Eastside is raising the funds needed to keep providing opportunities to students.
'We are very grateful to the many supporters of our school whose gifts sustain our work each year,' Lehman said. 'We also rely on a wonderful community of volunteers who provide academic tutoring to our students.'
Study.com has made a donation to help support Eastside College Preparatory School's mission. Find out how you can support their work by visiting their website.
Learn about how Project Read - Menlo Park is helping to improve communities by promoting literacy.