Understanding that time-tested correlation between educational opportunity and future economic empowerment, the National Urban League has developed Project Ready, a signature programming initiative that prepares African American students and other urban youth for college, work, and life. The project works with students in grades 8 to 12–along with their families–to increase college awareness, improve navigational and life skills, and raise confidence and self-awareness around decision making. The National Urban League wants more than increased college enrollment numbers, we want students to thrive in college. That can only happen with preparation.
Project Ready students make academic progress, benefit from cultural enrichment opportunities, and develop important skills, attitudes, and aptitudes that will help them make the transition from high school and position them for postsecondary success. Students are immersed in an environment that offers academic, social, and cultural supports and opportunities designed to develop college readiness. Progress is monitored in a variety of subjects, including courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), to ensure that students achieve a level of expertise that can take them beyond their high school classrooms.
Since 2006, more than 7,000 students have participated in their local community’s Project Ready program. In 2011, Urban League affiliates with Project Ready programs reported that at least 96% of participating students would be promoted to the next grade or were accepted into a two- or four-year college. In a 2012 survey of middle school and high school students enrolled in programs in selected cities, 93% of respondents said they had learned what it takes to succeed in college. Another 81% said they did activities to get ready for college, and 75% said they attended college tours.
I rest assured that numbers like these, numbers that demonstrate an enthusiasm for learning and future success, are the kinds of numbers we want to see for all our nation’s students. But before we can meet the challenge of cultivating a future American work force prepared to compete in our fast-paced, information-driven economy, we must ensure that our students are prepared to enter, prosper, and grow in institutions of higher learning. Project Ready stands as ready proof that when we commit to putting our children first by directing our time and resources to their success, you will find many students ready to meet the challenge.