Over the past decade, an Ohio program has nurtured dreams of a college education among an often-overlooked subset of the American population: teenagers in rural, poverty-stricken Appalachia.
This month, the Ohio Appalachian Center for Higher Education was recognized for its efforts as one of five winners of an Innovations in American Government Award.
More information on the Ohio consortium can be found at www.oache.org.
The national prize, which comes with a $100,000 grant for each winner, is given by the Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, in cooperation with the Council for Excellence in Government, a Washington-based group that seeks to improve government performance and understanding of the public sector.
The Ohio center, founded in 1993, is a consortium of 10 colleges and universities devoted to improving access to higher education among high school students in 29 counties in the eastern part of the state. Based in Portsmouth, Ohio, the center awards competitive grants to K-12 schools in the region, which in turn run programs to promote college access, career planning, understanding of financial aid, and other issues.
At least 56 school districts have had at least one school receive funding under the program, said Wayne White, the center’s executive director.
Those school efforts include having teachers and high school alumni talk to students about their own college experiences and what it took to succeed on campus, and bringing high school counselors to college campuses.
Other efforts have focused on having students make visits to vastly different kinds of work sites— the high-paying, very appealing kind, and the less appealing variety, or what Mr. White jokingly calls “the smelly places.”
The message is, “If you don’t like the odor here, by the way, there’s a community college down the road,” Mr. White said.
That message seems to be taking hold: College attendance improved in more than 77 percent of the 49 projects financed by the Ohio program through September 2000, according to those presenting the awards for government innovations.
“They broke down stereotypes [for] ‘Who is college material?’ ” said Carl A. Fillichio, a vice-president for the Council for Excellence in Government. “The program could be replicated, and others could learn from it.”