University of Delaware
Melva Ware works with students during the "On Track for Success" conference held at UD.

Reaching higher

'On Track for Success' conference encourages college, careers


9:48 a.m., Dec. 5, 2012--What makes someone successful when they pursue education and training beyond high school? Many people would point to their parents or other family role models. However, if parents don’t necessarily have that experience, it can be hard for them to guide their son or daughter. 

That’s where a recent conference, “On Track for Success,” comes in. Held in the University of Delaware’s Perkins Student Center on Dec. 1, the session provided an opportunity for high school students and their families to examine options and begin planning for the future. 

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Part of a global effort in more than 50 communities worldwide, this Bridge to Employment (BTE) program has operated for two decades in local communities to inspire high school students in disadvantaged communities to stay in school, excel academically, and elevate their career aspirations. 

With funding from Johnson & Johnson, over 40 high school students, along with their family members, were invited to attend conference.  Sessions helped the participants determine what kind of post-secondary options the students might pursue, gathering information from college and career guidance professionals to explore college enrollment, military service, and other career preparation options. 

Students attended a session on writing personal statements, scholarship essays and preparing resumes. Meanwhile, their parents could choose to attend sessions on how to pay for college or learning more about military careers.

Several UD student groups partnered to help make the conference successful, including the Academic Support Program Inspiring Renaissance Educators (ASPIRE), the McNair Scholars Program, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and the Student Support Services Program (SSSP).

"I am a firm believer that student support programs like today’s conference definitely make a difference in the life of students,” said Maria F. Marquez, a UD senior majoring in English and Spanish cultural studies. “I would not be in the position of graduating with distinction from the University of Delaware without the help of programs such as McNair, SSSP, Aspira and ASPIRE.

“Every year I try to give back to the organizations that have guided me through my career journey by volunteering at events like this conference. I am always fascinated to see the students' reaction when an undergraduate or a professional person gives them words of encouragement. It feels like we are opening the doors to a whole world of new opportunities that they never believed they could achieve."

The BTE program supports one cohort of high school students at a time. The current cohorts of students, based at Newark High School, entered when they were in ninth grade, and are now in 11th grade. The activities change each year, depending on where they are in the process of preparing for life beyond high school. 

Melva Ware, associate director of the Delaware Center for Teacher Education in the College of Education and Human Development, serves as an adviser for Delaware’s chapter.

According to Ware, “The results of the BTE program in Delaware are promising. Six of the current BTE students worked with ASPIRE officers this past summer to form an academic leadership group for a peer tutoring and support network that they are helping to launch at Newark High School. The high school students have taken ownership of many key behaviors and skills that support student success: time management, study strategies, and note-taking.” 

Article by Christina Mason Johnston

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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