Potential on the Periphery: College Access from the Ground Up
“Simmons provides families and educators with valuable information on effective practices involving both access to college and academic success. His analysis includes practical suggestions and a substantial review of the literature, along with policy recommendations and actual solutions. Most importantly, he brings first-hand experience in working with students throughout their higher education experiences, and he inspires us with their stories.”
–Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Even high-performing students sometimes need assistance to transform their high school achievement into a higher education outcome that matches their potential, especially when those students come from vulnerable backgrounds. Without intervention, many of these students, lost in the transition between secondary school and higher education, would not attend selective colleges that provide greater opportunities. Potential on the Periphery profiles the Simmons Memorial Foundation (SMF), a grassroots non-profit organization co-founded by author Omari Scott Simmons, that promotes college access for students in North Carolina and Delaware. Simmons discusses how the organization has helped students secure admission and succeed in college, using this example to contextualize the broader realm of existing education practice, academic theory, and public policy. Using data gleaned from interviews with past student participants in the programs run by the SMF, Simmons illuminates the underlying factors thwarting student achievement, such as inadequate information about college options, limited opportunities for social capital acquisition, financial pressures, self-doubt, and political weakness. Simmons then identifies policy solutions and pragmatic strategies that college access organizations can adopt to address these factors.
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