First graduates of College Possible at EHS find lifeline

For students in College Possible, dreams and reality are soon becoming one.

While the program nationwide boasts a 99 percent college admission rate, the question was whether or not the fledgling program at Edina, which began in 2015, had the same success rate.

At a community day event held last week at Edina High School, it was clear the answer was a resounding yes.

Of 20 seniors in the Edina College Possible program, 18 have already been admitted to college and 17 have already finished FAFSA applications.

Students who are accepted into the program meet two afternoons per week beginning as juniors and receive help with anything ranging from ACT prep to help deciding for which college to pursue enrollment.

“The FAFSA was really difficult and stressful,” Elizabeth, a senior in College Possible said. “It has just been really great to have that extra support when you are trying to deal with grades and whatever else. [Coach Maggie] helped me a lot with my decision.”

Elizabeth said that having another person to talk to and provide extra support was a bonus to her mother as well.

“It was really helpful,” Elizabeth said. “I think even my mom was surprised at the opportunities I was given through College Possible.”

Other seniors, in similar financial situations and many soon-to-be first generation college students, thought the program was a lifeline to achieving their dreams of going to college.

And while independence, beginning a new track in life, and of course, earning money after college were among the big themes for the students, breaking the cycle and being a first-generation college student was even stronger.

But the help doesn’t end when they graduate from high school
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College Possible follows students through college graduation, either through face-to-face coaches where possible, such as at the University of Minnesota, or online if at a college outside of their system.

“Our goal is college graduation,” Executive Director Sarah Dziuk said. “If they head to a two-year institution, four-year, stay in Minnesota, or go out of this region, we will support them no matter what.”

This includes if a student unenrolls, in which the program tries to match them to a better college for their situation, or connect them to tutors and other avenues of financial aid.

Because of the support, College Possible students are also four times more likely to finish college compared to their peers.

College Possible was founded in the Twin Cities 17 years ago and is now a national organization operating in five other states.

Heidi Howard, student academic coordinator at Edina, was one of the administrators who made the College Possible connection happen.

“Suburban poverty is real,” Howard said. “It is a little more hidden, but for the student and the family experiencing it, it is not much different.”

Howard said that the mission of “all for all” meant finding opportunities for all of the students in Edina, even if it means reaching out beyond the Edina School District.

“You can’t do ‘all for all’ by yourself,” Howard said. “And you don’t want to do ‘all for all’ average. If your kid is a part of that, you want the best. When you start looking at statistics … why wouldn’t you go after a program like College Possible is beyond me. Kids go to college at a rate that doesn’t happen for other students, specifically students of poverty.”

The program is free for students and is comprised of low-income students as well as being 95 percent students of color.

Principal Bruce Locklear said College Possible has been a “game-changer” for the district.

“When you change the way you speak, you change the way you think, and College Possible has done that for our students here at EHS,” Locklear said. “They learn to speak the vernacular of, ‘I’m going to college.’ Once they learn the vernacular of, ‘I’m going to college,’ they think of what it takes to get there and learn the language of success, hard work and commitment.”

Contact Ethan Groothuis at [email protected]