Learning from Boston, in the spring
One of the things I’ve grown to appreciate, is the value that each of us has in the lives of each other. Shortly before our trip to Boston to meet with other Opportunity Youth partners, I began to express to colleagues, family, and friends that I would be going to Boston for a week. Many people mentioned the historical racial tension of Boston and the State of Massachusetts and while Boston has been said (and shown) to be one of the most racist cities in the country, that was not my experience. As a young Black woman, I think that speaks volumes.
While in Boston, I had one of my most powerful learning experiences to date. The people who the Aspen Institute and FSG brought together provided me with healthy feedback, including some critiques and new opportunities. I had the opportunity to visit Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), the largest community college in Massachusetts, serving over 13,000 students a year. Through Success Boston, an initiative focused on college completion, Bunker Hill Community College works with a myriad of community based organizations whose services and specializations are different and sometimes complementary to each other.
Before the Success Boston initiative, Boston Public Schools were facing dismal high school dropout numbers. While reengagement work was happening prior to Success Boston, BHCC and partners in Success Boston work with many opportunity youth and young adults who were previously disconnected from education. Their aim is to get them through community college as efficiently and effectively as possible, while limiting placement into developmental learning and remediation courses. If young adults are placed in developmental learning courses, in which no college credit is earned, partner organizations have to work with BHCC to co-design a credit receiving course that bridges the developmental learning course with a credit course (alternatively they can augment an existing course).
With many students having to limit the amount of courses they can take in a semester because of their work and life schedules, students have the option of taking a developmental learning course that is co-designed with a credit course so there is synergy between courses. Surprisingly, BHCC students, particularly the formerly disconnected students, perform better when they take two classes as opposed to one and are more likely to complete their degree, as progress is seen more quickly in this model.
After attending BHCC site visit, the following two day I presented on panels discussing the work being done in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties to create strategic partnerships between community based organizations and community colleges. One critique we received from our peers was that once we have built the partnerships between community colleges and CBOs, we did not seem to have a plan to prevent drop off by Opportunity Youth once they are in college. We also received the following critiques and suggestions:
- We should track the movement of young adults through the community colleges as learners have interactions with multiple campuses these days because of housing and transportation issues.
- Since we have seven community colleges in Alameda County alone, we should lead the policy advocacy charge on remediation and placement policies. And
- We should be reviewing how the colleges’ equity plans have affected formerly disconnected young adults.
All-in-all, Boston was an exciting, positive, and amazing learning experience; I got to experience the city and converse with many experts in philanthropy, policy, education and youth leadership. I even had to chance to listen to the inspiring words of the brilliant Marshall Ganz, the man who I give a lot of credit in assisting President Obama in winning his elections. Although I thorough enjoy experiencing the City of Boston, it was the people of Boston and the people at the convening who have left a lasting impression on my life and the work I will passionately continue to do. I am very thankful and humbled for the opportunity to have represented my hometown and the work I lead on behalf of my peers and colleagues of Alameda County at-large.