It is not unreasonable to assume a few observations on your behalf: you know somebody who has gone off to college and not returned; you know somebody who doesn’t believe in the value of college education; and you know somebody who believes local students are being fully prepared for college readiness.
While each of these assumptions and their variants bring to light their own collective host of issues to be addressed, the blossoming reality is that locally we have not done enough to foster a college-going culture for all.
The Reach Higher Shasta initiative was formally presented to the community in late March. That same week, 250 local educators gathered at Simpson University to learn about ways to ensure that students graduate high school prepared for both college and careers.
Central to both of these presentations was the concept of building a “College-Going Culture,” a phrase that will become increasingly prevalent as the Reach Higher Shasta campaign continues to build steam over the coming months. But, what does it actually mean? What is a college- going culture, and how is it relevant to the north state?
According to UC Berkeley, a “college going culture” refers to the environment, attitudes and practices in schools and communities that encourage students and their families to obtain the information, tools, and perspective to enhance access to and success in post-secondary education.
Three necessary elements of a college going culture include:
- Students learn about options for their future, careers and the education they require, as early as elementary school, with a specific focus beginning in middle school.
- Schools convey the expectation that all students can prepare for the opportunity to attend and be successful in post-secondary education.
- Schools, families, and communities give students the same message of high expectations for their future.
This definition is technically correct, but it is cumbersome and a little vague. Another variation sums up the term in three words: dare to dream. Middle and high school counselors and educators create actionable, quantifiable plans for students, but to be effective, the underlying message of these plans has to be one of hope.
A true college going culture looks at broader educational goals for its students – not for a blanketed one-size-fits-all approach that everybody needs to go to college, but instead to truly encourage our youth to pursue their ultimate dreams, and help line out a plan for them to get where they need to go.
The underlying message of Reach Higher Shasta is to say, “We can do it.” We have the tools and the people in this community to accomplish broad goals. We are smart enough, creative enough and focused enough to build on the strengths that exist here and bring additional opportunities to this area. We are committed to educating students about the careers and options available to them so that they can be what they want to be. Adopting a college going culture means that we buy into the dream; the dream of opportunity, the dream of possibilities, the promise that hard work will pay off for our futures. It is adopting as absolute fact that we believe all students and families must have access to the support, guidance and resources they need to identify and attain their academic and career goals.
A college-going culture does not mean that all students have to go to college. It means students who want to go to college will have that opportunity. It means students will have support in identifying what they want to be and get support to achieve that goal, be it a four-year degree, certificate, apprenticeship or another route that is best for them. It means as a community, we need to raise our standards of expectations for ourselves, our children and our community.
Defining a college going culture from this perspective requires participation from everyone. This is not merely up to our educators, but to our store owners, politicians, friends and neighbors. Reach Higher Shasta is not an educational initiative; it is a community initiative. As the campaign roles out, please recognize that there is a role for all of us if we are to achieve our ultimate goals.
Get involved, lend your voice; we want to hear from you. Together we can make the dreams and hopes for ourselves and our region come to fruition. Opportunities for participating in the campaign can be found at www.reachhighershasta.com.
Kate Mahar, GEAR UP Director at Shasta College and College OPTIONS, is a proud resident of the north state. After transplanting to the Redding area over a decade ago, she is constantly in awe of the beauty of our surroundings and in the kindness, openness and compassion of our community members, friends and neighbors. Kate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-245-1845.