Six years ago, in Grant Hosfords first year as principal of Tacomas Lincoln High School, many students came to him in the closing weeks of their high school career, saying: You know, Mr. Hosford, I dont know what Im going to do when I graduate. Today Hosford says there has been an almost complete reversal. Now seniors are more likely to come to him to discuss their college plans.
As they visit in his office, his screen saver may pop up. It says, Go Abes! Which college is for me? The injunction grows out of a changing social ethic at Lincoln and the community it serves. Hosford says Lincoln graduates are not only attending WSU and other universities, they are succeeding there.
Ellen Murphy, WSU Cooperative Extension youth development specialist, and a program called College Knowledge for the Mind have helped give students a vision that college is for them, too. Hosford gives Murphy and WSU visionary credit for recognizing the gap between families that just assume children will attend college and families that never even consider the possibility. A great majority of our high school graduates are the first generation in their families to graduate from high school, Hosford says.
College Knowledge for the Mind began when a Cougar mom brought her firstborn daughter to Washington State Universitys Pullman Campus in 1988. Pamela Wallace drove back to Tacoma with apprehensions that WSU didnt have a critical mass of African-American students.
Back home, Wallace set out to change that. Through her efforts the WSU admissions office established a program funded largely by USBank. College Knowledge for the Mind events were held on Saturdays in community centers, churches and schools. Each was planned and conducted by local groups comprised of community leaders and parents. Most followed a college fair format with testimonials and presentations by current WSU students. Representatives of nine WSU colleges disseminated information at these events.
WSU Cooperative Extension entered the picture in 1992, when the program moved into the WSU Multicultural Student Services Center, and Ellen Murphy, extension youth development specialist, added the program to her plan of work. Among the changes introduced at that time was a focus on students from economically challenged families. Murphy says many of these students dont realize that college is a possibility for them.
Murphy convinced Superintendent Rudy Crew to bring the program into the Tacoma public schools. This changed College Knowledge for the Mind forever, Murphy says. She engineered a partnership involving WSU and Lincoln High School, the Higher Education Coordinating Board, community leaders, local colleges, businesses, trade groups and parents.
The program was formally brought into Lincoln High School, which suspends classes. All of the participating organizations conduct workshops at the school, presenting to students information about college, including career options, needed high school academic preparation, scholarships and other aspects of college.
A College Knowledge for the Mind program begins with an assembly administered by students themselves. Hosford says student involvement in planning boosts student interest. A motivational keynote speaker sets the stage. Students then can attend three workshops to expand their knowledge base about career choices and education. The program ends with a closing assembly at which current WSU students give their views on college life in a comical drama. At the closing assembly high school students receive door prizes of WSU paraphernalia in exchange for completing evaluations. This formally closes the event.
In October 1999, Extension Director Michael Tate assigned Murphy to work exclusively on College Knowledge for the Mind. Since that time, Murphy has taken the program to additional schools. Program events are held at Lincoln, Wilson and Mt. Tahoma high schools in Tacoma; at Gualt, McIlvaigh, Stewart and Gray middle schools in Tacoma; at Chief Leschi School and Puyallup High School in Puyallup; at Cleveland, Franklin, Rainier Beach, Chief Sealth, West Seattle high schools in Seattle; at Goldendale High School in Goldendale, and in Spokane School District No. 81, which did a district-wide event. More than 35,000 middle- and high-school students have participated in the program at these schools.
Although College Knowledge for the Mind began as an effort to help people of color get a college education, it has expanded to a multi-cultural effort that serves all races.