Blogpost: From CPLP to LCANs by Will Cherrin

photoPrior to my arrival at the University of Michigan and the National Forum I worked as the program director for the College Preparation and Leadership program (CPLP) at Mott Haven Village Prep High School in the Bronx.  The program provides all college and career prep related services for the students in the high school, from organizing college visits to SAT/ACT prep to facilitating financial literacy workshops.  Additionally, CPLP’s partnership with the school is so strong that CPLP staff is able to teach college and career prep classes to the students (9-12) during the regular school day for elective credit.  This structure has made college and career preparation mandatory and helped to promote a college-going culture in a school of majority first generation college bound students.  While the structure and integration of the program is very strong, the services it provides are very internal and the only time they reach out to external resources are either to connect students to extracurricular opportunities or to visit colleges.

Since beginning my work with the National Forum in August, I have had the opportunity to learn more about Local College Access Networks (LCANs) and even sit in on a LCAN development meeting for the city of Highland Park.  LCANs are designed to provide college prep services and promote a college-going culture in the community for which they serve.  What struck me most about the formation of this particular LCAN was how the entire community came together to create the vision and see it through, very unlike our approach at CPLP.  Represented at the meeting were counselors from the local high school, representatives from Trio, Gear Up, The Boys and Girls Club, and the Department of Human Services’ Youth and Family Services as well as us at the National Forum.  Though potentially harder to manage, this holistic approach is inspiring to see.  Each entity will bring its own unique perspective and resources towards the ultimate goal of access to higher education.

One area that I hope receives attention in the Highland Park LCAN model is the importance of personalizing the college application process.  Because CPLP is integrated into the school community, it is able to provide every student with individual support on their process.  This means individual college searches, college visits, personal statement review, meetings with students’ families, connecting students with resources on campus and a whole lot more.  Ideally the Highland Park LCAN will consider how to utilize its resources to provide this type of hands-on model.  As the planning process for the Highland Park LCAN moves forward, I am excited to see how it takes shape and hopefully add some input based on my experiences with CPLP.