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Berea College To Help Kentucky Students Prep for College

High school students in Appalachia will get a boost up in their college aspirations through a partnership that will include the use of online college preparation resources. Kentucky's Berea College, recently named the "most affordable college" in the nation by Money magazine, is using grant money to work with high schoolers in five counties — Rockcastle, Estill, Jackson, Lee and Madison — in a program that emphasizes academic success, career preparation and a mentality for pursuing college. As part of that program, students will gain access to WIN Career Readiness System, an online career exploration and planning service.

Berea has been a serial recipient of GEAR-UP grants from the United States Department of Education. "Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs" is intended to expand the number of low-income students who are prepared to attend and succeed in college. Berea's Partners for Education program received its first grant in 1999, another in 2005, and a third in 2011. Each grant enables the college to follow and work with a cohort of students from sixth grade to their college freshman year.

In July Partners in Education was invited to send a high school student to Washington, D.C. to participate in a roundtable discussion with other students and First Lady Michelle Obama on "Beating the Odds." 2014 Jackson County High School graduate Julie Jent shared the importance of having a mentor and told the First Lady that she'd be attending Berea in the fall.

"Many of our students come from generational poverty, and they need encouragement and guidance as they aspire to career opportunities after high school and develop a vision for attending a college or university," said Dreama Gentry, executive director of Partners for Education. "We believe that to break this cycle of poverty, each student in rural Eastern Kentucky should engage in a strong academic and workforce preparation program. With the WIN Career Readiness System, we provide students the tools to transform their futures."

Students, teachers and advisors at participating schools will have access to four of  WIN Learning's modules:

  • myStrategic Compass is a personalized career planning tool that provides advice on the types of high school courses needed, as well as data on job prospects, and access to a scholarship and grant database related to the chosen field;
  • WIN College Readiness Courseware (CRC+), digital curriculum covering foundational subjects in pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, reading and writing and English. Modules provide practice activities that help students prepare for college placement exams;
  • WIN Career Readiness Courseware, a set of career-focused curriculum modules that help students with reading for information, applied math and technology, business writing and other topics; and
  • WIN Soft Skills provides soft skill training in areas such as professionalism, communication, teamwork and collaboration, thinking critically and problem solving.

"We know that employers want high school graduates who can think mathematically, communicate, create, work in teams and solve problems in an entrepreneurial environment," Gentry said. "And those very same skills are needed to succeed in the military, a trade school or an institution of higher learning. We believe that with WIN Learning as a partner, our students will benefit from the robust offerings and be prepared no matter what their postsecondary plans are."

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