Amarillo College, a recognized leader in removing barriers of poverty that impede student success, once again will share its strategies with a national gathering, but this year a single summit on the Washington Street Campus will not suffice.
To accommodate a growing audience for the No Excuses Culture of Caring Poverty Summit, which was first presented here to a capacity crowd in 2018, AC has scheduled two such presentations this year – May 20-22 and May 23-24.
More than 150 representatives from 59 colleges, universities and institutions in 17 states are registered to attend the summits, which are being presented in association with #RealCollege, a national movement led by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice.
All sessions, including presentations by a pair of nationally known experts on poverty issues, will be conducted in the College Union Building.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response from peers at so many schools who are interested in learning more about the great work our faculty and staff have done to help students succeed, so we decided to schedule a second summit this year,” said Cara Crowley, AC’s vice president of strategic initiatives.
“The excitement our Culture of Caring has generated is gratifying,” she said. “We want to accommodate as many as we possibly can.”
Keynote speaker for the opening summit will be Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. She also is founder of the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, and is best known for her innovative research on food and housing insecurity in higher education.
Dr. Donna Beegle of Communication Across Barriers, a consulting firm dedicated to building poverty-informed communities armed with the tools to break the cycle of poverty in America, will conduct a poverty certification institute to kick off the second summit.
Poverty summit sessions will be conducted on the second floor of the College Union Building. A few of the many topics will be: “Building Your Advocacy and Resource Center,” “Creating a Culture of Caring,” and “Developing Your Systemic Approach to Addressing Poverty Barriers.”
AC’s path to becoming a national leader began when data summits for faculty and staff – and a variety of student focus groups – revealed that poverty, not academics, was the most significant barrier to student success. Students’ concerns about adequate food, housing, transportation, childcare and mental healthcare were weighing them down and preventing greater academic progress.
So AC adopted a Culture of Caring and launched a unique and ambitious No Excuses Poverty Initiative to connect first-generation and/or academically underprepared students with social services structured to help them overcome barriers to success.
The College prioritized accelerated learning, predictive analytics and wraparound social services. AC redesigned developmental education and incorporated the courses into pathways, while reconfiguring most courses from 16 to 8 weeks.
Over the past six years, Amarillo College opened a counseling center, a legal aid clinic, a career and employment center, and a childcare center. AC also launched an Advocacy and Resource Center, which houses a food pantry and connects students with social services provided by more than 60 local nonprofits.
Since the inception of the No Excuses Poverty Initiative, AC has recorded steady gains in A-to-C pass rates and fall-to-fall retention, three-year graduation and transfer rates, percentage of students who attend full time, and more.
As AC’s gains outpaced those being recorded nationally, higher education took notice. The No Excuses Poverty Initiative first garnered national acclaim in 2017 when it captured a prestigious Bellwether Award.
In 2018, AC’s systemic approach to accommodating low-income students was detailed in the May 30 issue of The Atlantic. It was further expounded upon in the April 12, 2019 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Also, earlier this year, AC was named a co-recipient of Achieving the Dream’s Leah Meyer Austin Award, a significant national accolade contingent upon measurable improvements in student outcomes.
“It is an honor to showcase the work we are doing to break down barriers between poverty and education,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, president of Amarillo College, said. “In striving to increase educational access and simultaneously strengthen our community, the faculty and staff here have positioned the College as a national leader, and sharing what we’ve learned is truly an honor.”