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Summer Learning & College Access: Summer Pathways AmeriCorps Program

February 23, 2017
Summer Learning & College Access

Many of us think of summer as a time when college students head home for a much needed break.  We picture quiet campuses, unused buildings, and faculty and staff leaving for their own vacations.  Yet, for some campus and community programs, summer is a busy time of year. That’s because they know that while summer can offer time for students to take a break from intensive school schedules, it is also a critical time of growth for students of all ages.  

The VHEC Summer Pathways AmeriCorps program recognizes this critical time for both current college students and also the K-12 students who may someday enroll on our campuses.  Preparing these students for success in higher education is key to increasing aspirations and access to higher education.  Summer is one time of year that we can really hone in on this.  Research from the National Summer Learning Association states that high-quality summer learning programs can have a significant impact on college and career readiness for K-12 students.  It’s also a time in which we can focus on high school graduates who aspire to attend college in the fall, but risk falling short of this goal.

Recent developments in summer learning have indicated that partnerships between K-12 schools, college campuses, and non-profit community based organizations are a promising approach to creating successful programs.  “Increasingly,” says a report by the National Summer Learning Association, “effective summer learning programs are taking place through school partnerships with less traditional providers such as public housing authorities, libraries, and parks."

Summer is also a crucial time for high school graduates preparing to enter college in the fall semester.  A recent research brief highlights the significant number of students who intend to enroll at a college or university immediately following their senior year, but fail to do so – a trend referred to widely as “summer melt”.  In fact, “22 percent of the lowest-income youth failed to enroll in college in the fall term immediately following their high school graduation.” This phenomena disproportionately affects low-income students, and is “even higher for students bound for community college – nearly 40 percent." Colleges and universities around the country are implementing intrusive advising practices, such as text mentoring programs to slow this summer melt.

At VHEC, we’re mobilizing to address summer melt and to support high-quality summer learning by focusing college access initiatives on this key leverage point.  Our Summer Pathways AmeriCorps Program joins with campuses and community-based partners across the state in order to help increase summer learning supports that will prepare students for the fall.   From partnerships with Upward Bound and TRiO programs, to providing mentorship to underrepresented and K-12 youth, as well as literacy and STEM activities through the summer, our AmeriCorps members are busy as tutors, college coaches, mentors, bookmobile assistants, and ambassadors of summer learning throughout Vermont.

It’s especially important to our team at VHEC that our members reflect the diversity we see in the students we serve.  Last year, our AmeriCorps Summer Pathways Program hosted 21 AmeriCorps Members, all of whom were current college students or recent college graduates.  Nearly all were Vermont residents, and all but a handful attend a Vermont institution.  Most notably, 71% of our cohort identified as near-peer, first-generation college students themselves.  This program gives them an opportunity to share their success with others who face similar challenges and also enables them to support their own financial needs through the stipend and education award that they receive.

In exchange for 12-weeks of service, these students receive a modest living allowance ($2,500, paid bi-weekly), an AmeriCorps Education Award (valued at $1,527), professional development opportunities, and a meaningful summer experience that impacts K-12 youth and first-generation college students in Vermont.  They are concurrently building personal and professional skills that will enhance their own college experience and prepare them for careers post-graduation.

VHEC is finalizing host sites for Summer of 2017.  If you would like to host an AmeriCorps member at your campus or community organization, there may still be time.  If you are a current college student or recent college grad looking for a summer service opportunity, please visit our recruitment page.  We will be adding positions as they become available.

Please contact our Program Director, Nicole Stefanowicz (nicole@vermonthec.org) for more information.

VHEC Partners