6 Colleges, 1 Lang Scholar, 7 college-bound Graduates
The College Access Center of Delaware County (CACDC), a program that sets Delaware County–area high-school students on the college-bound path, is marking its third year. In that time, the center has grown from an organization struggling to let the community know that it exists to a place where high schools are now referring parents and students.
Cynthia Jetter ’74, director of community partnerships and planning, Eugene M. Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, and a former resident of Chester, spearheads the CACDC that is supported by Swarthmore College, Delaware County Community College, and Neumann, Cheyney, Widener, and Penn State–Brandywine universities. She says the center currently serves 1,200 residents annually—through workshops, walk-in consultations, community programs, college tours and fairs, tutoring, partnerships with local groups, or through its core program, Roadmap.
Students enroll in Roadmap as ninth-graders. As they progress through high school, the center’s staff and volunteers work to prepare them for college. This year, the first core group of seven graduated. As a testament to the value of Roadmap, every graduate in this program was accepted to college—with scholarships. “I’m very proud of my brainchild,” Jetter says. “[It’s] evolved a lot.”
The center doesn’t just encourage high-school students to go to college and graduate—it also needs and solicits others to become engaged in supporting the students. After volunteering at the CACDC for three years, Nick Allred ’13, a Eugene M. Lang Opportunity Scholar, decided that for his Opportunity Project, he would work more closely with a core group of 15 high-school seniors on the financial-aid process, a project now incorporated into the Roadmap program.
“I’d entered college myself, and it made a lot of sense to turn around and try to help other people do the same,” Allred explains. Lang Opportunity Scholarships provide a guaranteed summer internship, educational enhancement funds, and the opportunity to apply for up to $10,000 to create a project that addresses a social problem. Scholars who successfully complete a project also are eligible for up to $5,000 each year for graduate studies for up to two years. Allred is the first scholar to partner with the College Access Center.
He laid the groundwork for his project over the summer. This fall, he’s helping the seniors work through scholarship applications. Later, he’ll assist them with their financial-aid applications.
Allred is just one of the many Swarthmore students who volunteer at the center located near the Widener University campus. According to Jetter, 30 to 35 Swarthmore community members help out each semester, including staff from the financial aid and admissions offices, who conduct workshops; writing associates from Swarthmore’s Writing Center, who help seniors with writing assignments, such as college essays or senior papers; and students from the Computer Science Club, who hold workshops on appropriate use of the Internet and tutoring/homework assistance.
Thanks to the funding and in-kind support provided by the six colleges and universities as well as local foundations and the United Way, all services are free—from assistance with completing financial-aid forms, SAT/ACT prep sessions and access to Internet-accessible computers.
As the center moves forward, Jetter hopes to see it expand, both physically and in connections made. One of her next goals is to begin a program for middle-school students.
“We definitely know we need to start earlier,” Jetter says. “We’re hoping that this fall, or definitely by January, we’ll have a middle-school program in Chester.” A future goal is also to have several satellite locations throughout the county located in libraries, community centers, or schools.