Leadership Memphis expands horizons for high school students

In a program initiated just last year, Leadership Memphis has been opening the doors for Shelby County high school students to pursue secondary degrees and other after high school opportunities.

“We realize that not everybody is geared to go to a 4-year college after graduation from high school,” explained Amber Hampton, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Leadership Memphis. “But we wanted to make a difference in lowering the statistic that 44 percent of high school graduates in Shelby County do not pursue secondary opportunities.”

Having raised more than $60,000 for their Expanding Horizons College and Career Tours initiative, Leadership Memphis has worked with students from the eight local high schools where the organization was already involved, taking more than 500 juniors and seniors on tours to show them the opportunities that are out there.

Hampton said, “In coordination with Shelby County School’s Goal 2025: 80/90/100 plan, Leadership Memphis’ action initiative SUCCESS High Schools is implemented in local eight high schools: East, Fairley, George Washington Carver, Hamilton, Kingsbury, Kirby, Melrose and Trezevant. We’ve taken our students to see vocational and technical schools, as well as community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities.”

Schools on the program’s 2015-2016 target list for tours included Moore Tech College, Christian Brothers University, Rhodes College and University of Memphis. Students have also been to Arkansas State University, Lane College, Union University, Jackson State University, Tougaloo College, Dillard University, Xavier University and Loyola University.

“We’ve also tried to open the doors for our students for opportunities in the military,” added Hampton. “Research has shown that students who do not pursue a secondary degree or another opportunity after high school, especially those from under-served communities, tend to continue in a life plagued by poverty, high rates of crime and higher rates of unemployment.”

Breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty is key to making a difference in a young person’s ability to succeed as an adult.

“For some of our students, these tours are the first time they have ever been outside of their own neighborhood,” said Hampton. “For many, if they choose to pursue a secondary degree, they will be the first generation of their family to attend college.”

More than simply walking onto the campuses of institutions for higher learning, these students are being given tools to help them actually claim a spot in the enrollment. Meetings with school administrators, counselors and other students give the students with Leadership Memphis opportunities to ask the questions that matter most to them, like lifestyle questions concerning how to balance coursework with other responsibilities and financial aide options. Other make-or-break information is clearly defined, such as how to write a college essay, how to learn and monitor application deadlines, as well as other how to’s critical to the application process. From the prospective schools’ side, Hampton says the admissions staff are eager to speak with the Leadership Memphis students.

“Most school administrators realize that this program is bringing them an opportunity to speak with students with whom they might not have connected with otherwise,” said Hampton. “And as a show of support, some of the schools are waiving application fees for our students.”

As the program gains traction, Leadership Memphis hopes to expand this offering to be able to take 750 students on tours in the summer and the fall of 2016. The organization is fundraising for that effort now. And the Turley Family Foundation is providing matching donations at a 2:1 ratio, up to $25,000, so every dollar donated is actually multiplied.

“The cost to take a single student on a local college and career tour is $45,” said Hampton. “For every individual donation of $30, the Turley Family Foundation will contribute $15 to equal the full cost of one college and career tour. Regional tours require a 3-day/2-night stay and cost $450 for a single student. An individual donation of $300 will be matched with $150 from the Turley Family Foundation, providing the full amount for one regional tour.”

To learn more about the program’s fundraising efforts, go here.


Read more articles by Emily Adams Keplinger.

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