As YES Prep Public School’s recent report indicates, the six-year graduation rate for students in low-income communities nationally is 10 percent. Comparatively, for the YES Prep students in the Houston area, the six-year graduation rate at 41 percent, is more than four times that. A majority of students in the YES Prep program are economically disadvantaged, and 90 percent are first-generation college students.
Since the program’s creation in 1998, YES Prep has actively worked to provide 6th-12th grade students from low-income communities with the guidance and academic skills to attend and graduate from college. YES Prep currently encompasses a network of 13 public charter high schools and serves 8,000 students. In order to give students the tools they need to succeed academically, and may not be getting elsewhere, YES Prep heightens students’ exposure to challenging academic curriculum (like AP courses and SAT prep classes), increases their access to college scholarships and grants, and offers one-on-one counselor support. YES Prep’s college counselor-to-student ratio is about 40 to 1, a proportion that is strictly maintained so as to best serve and support students.
All advancements in college graduation rates aside, Yes Prep isn’t done yet. The organization’s latest report outlines not only its accomplishments, but its shortcomings and plans for revision as well. Four of the program’s previous misconceptions (and the corresponding strategies it hopes will right these wrongs) were self-reported in the document. Overall, through trial-and-error and research conducted over the years, YES Prep say it has come to realize that:
- A student’s accessibility to colleges does not necessarily mean he or she will then succeed in college.
- Academic skills are not the only factor in determining whether or not a student will be successful in higher education.
- This one organization cannot help college hopefuls alone; partnerships are vital in assisting students.
- College affordability, especially for students of low-income communities, is crucial.
In response to these challenges, YES Prep has begun to implement new initiatives and goals into its program. YES Prep has maintained valuable relationships with 29 colleges and universities through its IMPACT Partnership Program, created in 2006, so that high-school graduates can still continue to receive support while at college. The newly founded Alumni Scholarship Fund was also created “to secure many more scholarships for students than [YES Prep] may have been able to without an internal system.”
The organization is also proposing to expand its reach to students of Memphis, Tenn., in 2015. Most ambitiously, in the upcoming years, YES Prep strives to have at least 80 percent of its students earn a college degree within six years of graduating.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.