Education / 2013

Destination College

Destination College

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Fulfillment Fund

The Fulfillment Fund is a Los Angeles based 35 year old nonprofit that has evolved into a leading college access organization with a multipronged model for success. The Fulfillment Fund’s mission is to make college a reality for students growing up in educationally and economically under-resourced communities. A college degree is more important than ever in creating a pathway out of poverty. We promote higher education and college bound culture through our high school program in partnership with several LA Title 1 high schools. Our program is designed around our classroom-based proprietary College Access Curriculum, one-on-one college counseling, and experiential learning opportunities such as college tours and our annual signature event, Destination College. We are unique in that our program is part of the regular school day, making us an integrated part of our students’ school day. Our holistic approach and commitment of “One Student a Time” enables us to extend educational opportunity and create long-term positive change for our students, their families and the surrounding community. Numerous students do not see college as a reality due to the cycle of poverty, cost of attendance, and lack of college graduate role models in their communities. Compounding the problem are budget cuts that lead to overcrowding 1:35 students and few or nonexistent college counselors 1:1250 students in area Title 1 high schools; the Fulfillment Fund is bridging this gap to service these students. We partner with the schools to provide students with the much needed guidance and information to graduate high school, apply to and attend college. The education of one student not only impacts the student, but it can also increase the economic growth of their family and surrounding community exponentially. Our hope for 2050 is that the greater LA community believes in our vision that all students, regardless of their circumstances, should have the opportunity to attend college, graduate, and actively participate in transforming their communities and creating a better society. Our students are LA’ future business leaders, parents, and community advocates that will help spread the importance of the value of higher education. Our immediate goal for the future is to reach more students, families, and educators by expanding our signature event, Destination College beyond our current students. The Fulfillment Fund has successfully held 16 Destination College events for high school program students, their parents and mentors; it is often the first time many of them visit a higher education institution and begin to see attending a college or university as within their grasp. Destination College is always held on a local college campus such as Loyola Marymount University, the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. Grade specific workshops are delivered by Fulfillment Fund program staff and outside content experts that include: Overview of the 4-college systems, Financial aid options, Personal essay writing, College Applications 101, and Leadership 101. Several workshops, led by professionals in creative fields, incorporate youth development and creative self-expression to further engage students. The event also includes a robust college fair attended by 60 or more national college recruiters who provide general information and address our students’ concerns about financial aid, cultural challenges, and support services. For many students, Destination College is a pivotal, life-changing experience as it marks the first time they realize that they can belong in the college community. After attending the event, students are armed with critical information and have a sense of empowerment which translates into certainty that they can attend their dream school no matter the cost because they have options. The event provides parents and mentors with valuable resources and support about the importance of their student attending college in addition to providing guidance on how best to prepare their teens for college. In LA County, where only 32% of students complete college prep coursework A-G\; Destination College has the ability to ignite passion in students and stress the importance of succeeding in high school in order to be accepted to college. The main goals of Destination College are to: 1. Motivate students to apply for and attend college by connecting them with college representatives and current college students. 2. Spread practical knowledge about the college admissions process and financial aid through informative workshops. 3. Educate more parents in the college going opportunities that exist for their children and help remove the financial barriers they may think hinder these opportunities


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

The Fulfillment Fund has been able to gauge the need of the Los Angeles community and build a successful model that works for students. The Fulfillment Fund provided mentoring to help students graduate high school and educate them about college access. Through the interactions with students, parents, and educators, we saw the great need for the community to be educated on college acccess for all students especially those in first-generation, low-income or under-resourced areas. We were able to build on our mentoring program and develop proprietary high school curriculum that is delivered in partnership with schools during class-time and one-on-one counseling through our College Access Program Advisors. We also have a CAP (College Access Program) Leadership Crew that meets once a month.

Experiential learning opportunities are provided for the students in our program including college overnight tours and the annual Destination College event. Destination College has successfully been held for 16 years and we have been able to provide a unique college experience for thousands of high school students. Fulfillment Fund provides financial aid workshops and also has a robust scholarship program open to students that go through our program. Parent workshops during Destination College are provided in English and Spanish to help them provide support for their children in high school and college.

A testament to our success has been the recent ability to provide the city of Las Vegas the tools to replicate the Fulfillment Fund model as a pilot in their schools. The participating schools have already started seeing a shift in perceptions on attending college from the students.

The Fulfillment Fund program students have a 90% high school graduation rate compared to 64.2% in LAUSD overall. In 2012, 90% of our students planned to enroll in college versus 54% of students from low-income communities nationwide. An impressive 81% of Fulfillment Fund students become the first in their family to attend college, helping break the cycle of poverty in their family and community.

We strive for the students in Los Angeles to have quality college access programs and have an experience similar to Nicole Harris Blackwell. Nicole shared that her family wanted her to be the first to go to a four-year college “but [they] didn’t know how to help [her] navigate through choosing a school or completing applications and financial aid forms. The Fulfillment Fund was invaluable in helping me to successfully enroll in Spelman College.” She is a proud graduate of Spelman College and Claremont Graduate University and is an English professor at Santa Monica College.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

The Fulfillment Fund partners with several Los Angeles area high schools to enroll students for Destination College. Our goal is to create a college going culture in these schools among the students, parents, and educators. Partner high schools: • New Designs Charter School • Gertz-Ressler Charter High School • Alexander Hamilton High School • Crenshaw High School • New Open World (NOW) Academy Extended School Partners • The Alliance Schools • Green Dot Schools • So CAL CAN- CBO organizations, like USC NAI, Bright Prospects, MOSTE girls, One Voice and CDF Partner colleges include Destination College host schools as well as admissions recruiters from over 60 college and universities that participate in the event.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

We measure success in multiple ways, but our primary indicator is a pre and post survey is distributed to student participants at our Destination College event. The survey is designed to measure student impact and is reviewed for quality improvement measures. In 2012, a parental survey was developed and distributed to parents and caregivers that attended Destination College with their students. These two surveys will be the main form of assessing the event and students attitudes about attending college. The survey gauges the students’ interest in attending college.

Follow up questions on the survey also help to gain more knowledge about the students and their attitudes toward attending college. Some of the options students can select for reasons why their interest changed include: 1) participating in the grade-specific workshops; 2) listening to the student panel; and 3) attending the college fair. For a majority of students, the financial aid workshop impacted their attitude shift because it began to demystify the financial aid process and encourage students to apply for any school of their choice regardless of cost concerns.

Success will also be measured by increased numbers of parental involvement. Parent involvement is key in the process since a majority of our students (81%) will be the first generation in their households to attend college. For many of our parents, the idea of navigating the college going process is overwhelming. Our parents want their children to succeed and often just need a little help to understand how to best they can help their children. Together with parents, we can educate more students on the importance of attending college and create a broader college-going culture in the communities most in need in Los Angeles.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

A good education is key to helping elevate individuals from the cycle of poverty. A 2009 U.S. Department of Education study showed that the average income by a high school dropout was $19,540, those with a high school diploma increased to $27,380, an associate’s degree earned an average of $36,190, and a Bachelor’s degree earned more than double a dropout salary at $46,930. These statistics clearly indicate that the average high school dropout is likely to earn wages that are below the federal poverty level and that the higher the education level, the greater chance for economic self-sufficiency. Study after study has also shown that a higher education will deter one from crime, lowering incarceration rates and also promotes a higher degree of engagement in community and civic activities. This project will lead to a better educated workforce and create a ripple effect that impacts students, parents and families, and Los Angeles businesses by 2050.

The Fulfillment Fund will continue to support college access in Los Angeles while broadening our reach in partner high schools, serving more students and creating school-wide impact. There is currently a lack of opportunities for students growing up in economically and educationally under-resourced communities to get the help they need to successfully navigate the college going process. Among our students, the majority - 69% are Latino and 19% are African-American. A combined 80% of the population we serve receive free or reduced lunch. Nationally, for students from low-income families, only 54% go on to college as compared to 84% of their more affluent counterparts. By increasing student and parent participation, we can have a positive impact on these statistics and increase of number of low-income students, in particular the number of Latino and African-American students graduating high school and attending college.

Our college matriculation rates over the past two years show that, as a result of our services, Fulfillment Fund students are matriculating to University of California colleges at a higher rate than Los Angeles County as a whole by a margin of 3%. They are also matriculating to California state schools at nearly double the rate of LA County overall (43% vs. 23%). Expansion of Destination College outside of current Fulfillment Fund students will allow us to serve Los Angeles students and families that are most in need by motivating students and demonstrating that college is an viable opportunity no matter what the obstacles or financial concerns.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

By 2050, we would like to see thousands of students filling local college campuses – perhaps over multiple days to engage in workshops and college fairs. Our hope is for first generation students to have confidence that they can and should be part of a college community. We envision thousands of Fulfillment Fund alumni serving as positive role models for the generations to come and giving back to their communities. Parents will know that college is viable for their children and will understand how to support them through the college going process. As our participants in Destination College become the parents, business leaders, educators and community leaders of the future Los Angeles we will shift the conversation in Los Angeles so that all students have the opportunity to attend college regardless of their circumstances.