While Daniel Caracheo’s plans always included college, he knew that somewhere along the line he’d need an edge.
The City High/Middle School senior thinks he found one in the new T2C Studio: Grand Rapids Center for College Success. The center, located in the Grand Rapids Public Library, aims to provide a shot in the arm for students preparing to enter college. It provides information on financial guidance, one-on-one support between coordinators and students, and access to what students can expect in everything from housing to mental health services and career choices.
A recent grand opening attracted nearly a dozen college representatives to the center, which opened in August serving about 250 students. It focuses heavily on Grand Rapids Public Schools but is available to non-GRPS students as well.
Daniel, who wants to become a doctor, said the center offers students valuable resources in their preparation for college. He said while students may believe they’ve planned well for college, it’s easy to miss parts of that preparation.
“You don’t always know what to do,” Daniel said. “There are challenges and a lot ofunknowns, huge burdens. Places like (the center) help kids take a load off.”
Lynn Heemstra, the executive director of Our Community’s Children, a community service learning program for Grand Rapids youth, said the T2C studio is an attempt to increase postsecondary degree attainment for all students, particularly students of color and those who would be the first in their families to attend college.
The center was launched by the To College, Through College initiative, a collaboration funded by the Lumina Foundation and facilitated by Our Community’s Children, which is in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools.
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“Many students don’t know what they don’t know,” Heemstra said. “The (center) reflects a collective, community based approach in helping kids get their degrees.”
Grad Rates Should Climb
Heemstra said the center will ultimately more than double the college graduation rates of GRPS graduates. She said their current college graduation rate of 18 percent, up 10 percent from 2013, should rise as students improve their focus on getting better SAT scores and existing college readiness programs.
The partnership between the school system, Grand Rapids Public Library and local businesses will help ensure the center’s success, she affirmed.
“It’s a recommitment to a compact that shows a shared mission to postsecondary education,” Heemstra said.
T2C coordinator Shayla Willis said she would have been thrilled to take advantage of the center’s opportunities when she graduated from Grand Rapids Central eight years ago. She said students need a place to turn in their preparation for college.
“I felt that need eight years ago,” Willis said. “It means so much to kids. Now kids have all these pieces they can rally around. It’s about giving them a supportive resource for their corner.”