Tag Archives: collaboration

NLNE The Partners: Amarillo College

In this edition of “The Partners,” we sit down with Amarillo College’s Presidents, Russell Lowery-Hart.  

No Limits No Excuses: How did Amarillo College originally get involved with No Limits No Excuses?

Amarillo College: When Partners for Postsecondary Success (PPS) first came out with the Gates Grant, the Foundation pulled people together, and Amarillo College was in that room. I remember vividly seeing all the organizations in the room, talking about educational attainment, and I’m thinking, this is the opportunity for Amarillo College to integrate itself into the community more fully. I felt like people supported the College but didn’t understand it because I wasn’t sure the college had been truly responsive to all of our partners. To have a unifying goal as a community gave me great clarity where I could come back to Amarillo College and immediately start linking things that we wanted to do to the goal or redesign things to fulfill that goal.

 

It was a natural fit, immediately, and it gave a framework for our work internally, not just for the partnership. Our PPS coaches gave us a framework that we started evaluating all of our interventions against. It gave us the context of a living wage. And now, we won’t entertain starting a program that doesn’t start with a living wage or won’t lead to a living wage and a pathway.

 

NLNE: What has kept AC’s involvement through this five-year process?

AC: Because it’s made us better. It helped us understand our students more fully so that we could serve the students we have, not the students we wish we had or thought we had. It’s integrated us with other partners like AISD, Workforce Solutions, and the ACE program.

I feel like we’re all unified because we’re all working toward the same goal.  Before No Limits, No Excuses, we all had individual goals that weren’t aligned. So, we keep coming back because the partnerships generate new approaches and more effective outcomes for our students.

 

NLNE: How has the partnership increased your relationships with other institutions, and what do those look like now?

AC: Well, in some really tangible ways. Workforce Solutions now has an employee that they pay that is housed in our career center and we share their software.  We can take someone that Workforce Solutions is serving, find them a job and put them in an academic or certificate program simultaneously. So, it’s integrating effort, and that’s the best example of what’s happened through this partnership.

NLNE: I always say this when I’m talking about NLNE, it’s obvious that Amarillo College, Amarillo ISD, and WT had a relationship prior to NLNE.  However, It seems like the intentionality of the relationships brought on by NLNE, and sitting in the same room and having conversations, is really the genesis of success and culture change for No Limits, No Excuses.

AC: We have a shared goal and have developed more trust.  We’re sharing data to support that shared goal, and when you have that, you don’t see yourselves as competitors. We’ve worked together before NLNE, but I don’t think we worked together as effectively. We saw each other as competition, and I think that has completely subsided.  NLNE partner employees are working at the same table to design programs and in NLNE work groups to better serve our community. You build relationships that build trust that build integrated services.  I love the partnership that we have, and I love the relationship that the three most important educational entities in our community have as a result of NLNE.

 

NLNE: What changes in culture in regards to universal achievement have you seen?

AC: One is a complete focus on data. We used to worship the anecdotal, and take the anecdotal as the gospel for every student. So, if we had one student from Palo Duro High School that came to AC and transferred to WT, and then got a job on Wall Street, then it proved how amazing we were when we had a whole swath of students that didn’t have that same experience.

Universal achievement forced us to focus on the “universal” part of achievement and not cherry-pick the stories we liked. We needed to own the stories we didn’t like, and then to put data to it and do system analysis of it – this process has truly been transformative for us. But if you want to take credit for that person’s success, you also have to take the blame for a student’s failure. Before the No Excuses approach to our work as an institution and as a community, we didn’t want to take ownership of our students’ failures.

Our big marketing push right now is “Success IS …” , and we’re trying to highlight students that have gone through Amarillo College, maybe went on to WT and then worked in this community. If we’re going to change the future of the community,

we have got to stop talking about success as getting out. Success is not defined by getting out. Success is defined by getting a degree and a job and staying in.

 

NLNE: What role does Amarillo College play in or serve as a partner?

AC: I’m probably not the person to ask that question. I think in a lot of ways, we can help the partnership glue things together. We are the glue between the ISD high school graduate and the bachelor’s degree. We’re the glue between the ISD and the workforce, and I feel that pressure, and I need my colleagues in Amarillo College to feel that pressure. We say Amarillo is only as strong as its college because if we can serve this partnership with this community successfully, everybody is going to be successful.  But if we can’t, then the whole community loses and that keeps me up at night.

NLNE: What does the future look like for education, post-secondary education in the workforce?

AC: It has to look different than it does now. It has to be… more seamless. There will be more focused on giving students pathways to options. But for a community college, we need to be a gateway for opportunity, and so, we need to give students a foundational understanding of what their options are, but they don’t necessarily have to define those options here. They need to find them at WT or at Tech, or wherever they go.

 

NLNE: What impact has NLNE had on your organization, culturally and physically?

AC: Culturally, I think it’s given us more confidence in our place in the community. We understand our role more fully and have embraced it and are excited about it. Structurally and philosophically, it’s had an enormous impact on Amarillo College. It gave us a no excuses philosophy; it connected us to the No Excuses University.

 

NLNE:    Define “no excuses”.

AC: For me, that means that at Amarillo College, every student has the opportunity to succeed because we’ve built systems for them to be successful. But when they’re not successful, we don’t have any excuses for that failure. It means we didn’t have the right person, the right policy, the right support or the right process in place to ensure that success. We have to give students opportunity without limits. But we can’t have excuses for lack of achievement, and we used to swim in those excuses: demographics, first-generation status, income level, test scores. Those are influences that are essential to understanding, but they’re not excuses anymore.

So, for us, that’s changed our philosophy but it’s structurally changed us as well.  Without No Limits, No Excuses, we wouldn’t have a Career Center, food pantries, clothing closets and an entire systemic approach to social services.  We wouldn’t have a coach’s champions program, a Money Management Center, the Texas Workforce Commission, and a Workforce Solutions office on our campus, jointly serving students.

We would just be a typical community college without the partnerships, and now we’re a place that’s really special.

 

NLNE: What impact have you seen No Limits, No Excuses have on the community?

AC: Here’s what I love – I think that it’s had a real impact on understanding what our education attainment levels are, and why everyone should care about them.  Why it affects everyone on a personal level, and that, instead of memorializing the demographic shifts that are happening, and the growth of poverty, we can make a collective impact and redefine and redirect the future of this community, and we can do it together, and only together.

 

NLNE: How would you characterize success for No Limits, No Excuses?

AC: I think success for No Limits, No Excuses is when Amarillo Colleges gets to a 70 percent completion rate, because it’ll take the community to make that happen. Success is when there is a more diversified economy because we have an educated workforce to support it. Success is when poverty rates go down and more of our citizens are in a living wage. Success is when our property values go up because there is a broader part of this community that’s supporting the infrastructure that we need to grow.

 

NLNE: What other thoughts do you have about No Limits, No Excuses?

AC: The shift for me in NLNE from 2009 when we started talking about this collective impact to 2017 is that, when I think about the organizations that are a part of the partnership, before I just thought about them as organizations in our community that we either had to work through or work around, and now, I see friends that are trying to help me fulfil my mission

 

 

New Blog Series Announced!

We will be starting a new blog series beginning next week.  One of the programs of the Amarillo Area Foundation is No Limits No Excuses.  This initiative is made up of over 25 partners who are working to create pathways for post-secondary success.

We think you’ll find this blog series extremely interesting as you see the complete picture of why NLNE is so impactful.  You will also learn how the partnership is shaped and how it’s working to create a community with increased education across all socioeconomic levels.

We begin the series with a look at Workforce Solutions.  We will share these posts across our social media platform, but you can always subscribe to get our blog updates in your inbox, browser, or wherever you choose. Here the link to subscribe: http://bit.ly/aaf_RSS

 

The New Face of ACE

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ACE students have completed more than 1,374 certificates and degrees and are a projected to return $2.6 billion in lifetime earnings to Amarillo’s economy.

One of the most powerful features of the ACE Scholarship Program is its ability to leverage outside sources of financial aid.  Since ACE assists students in obtaining federal, state, and local grants and scholarships, we are able to send students to college for an average cost of $1,200 per year. The ability to leverage outside aid makes ACE an excellent educational investment in Amarillo students.

As we look forward to another 20 years of assisting ACE scholars, we are asking for your help in supporting the educational aspirations of our students.  Your $100 a month actually sends a child to college through the ACE program. Will you be a face of ACE?

Meet our current ACE supporters.

Meet Christopher, an ACE student.

Visit https://www.amarilloareafoundation.org/face-of-ace to become a face of ACE today.

 

Dugger Legacy Continues Through Scholarship Fund

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AMARILLO, TX – The Amarillo Area Foundation is the benefactor of a major gift from Bus and Freda Dugger in the amount of $1 million. The gift, finalized after Bus Dugger’s passing in April of this year, will establish an endowed scholarship fund for juniors and seniors attending West Texas A&M University. It is the largest principal scholarship gift designated specifically for high school students from the Texas Panhandle the Foundation has ever received.

Born, raised, and originally educated in Oklahoma, Dugger’s career in sales brought him to Amarillo where he met Cal Farley. Dugger and Farley formed Kids Inc., Amarillo’s youth sports organization, in 1945.  While garnering support for Kids Inc. from Glenwood Elementary’s PTA, Bus met his wife, Freda – an Amarillo native and music teacher. They married in March of the same year.

The Dugger’s were strongly connected to our local Panhandle postsecondary institutions. Freda began her education at Amarillo Junior College and finished with a Master’s in Education from West Texas State University. Bus completed his Bachelor’s and Masters at West Texas A&M University in 1955 and 1956, respectively.

Both Freda and Bus were educators themselves. Freda taught in Enid and Shallowater as well Humphrey’s Highland and Forest Hill once she and Bus returned to Amarillo. Bus was the Supervisor of Adult Education at Amarillo College from 1961-1966 until Cal Farley convinced Bus to take a position at Boy’s Ranch. Bus stayed at Boys Ranch until his retirement in 1982.

Bus was inducted as the 137th member to the Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame for his work with Kids Inc. and his role as a basketball and football official for high school, college, and the NIBL for 33 years.

Kids Inc. President & CEO Jimmy Lackey, a close friend of the Duggers, had this to say about the intent behind their gift to AAF: “Mr. and Mrs. Dugger were unable to have children of their own. This scholarship endowment is their way of extending their genuine care for young people that will provide educational opportunities for students from the Texas Panhandle from now on. What a gift.”

College juniors and seniors with a 3.0 GPA attending or planning to attend West Texas A&M University who completed high school in the 26 northernmost counties of the Texas Panhandle are eligible to apply for the $2,000 annual scholarship. The scholarship is renewable for two consecutive semesters for college juniors.

To apply for the Dugger Scholarship please visit www.amarilloareafoundation.org/scholarships. Our general scholarship application for the 2017-2018 academic year will open on November 1, 2016 and close on February 10, 2017 at 12:00pm.

To donate to the CC “Bus” and Freda Dugger Endowed Scholarship Fund please contact Kasey Long, Director of Development, by email kasey@aaf-hf.org or phone 806-476-4521.

#WHYACE: VOICES PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

Blog_headerTo conclude our ACE series we thought we would celebrate graduation season by highlighting the voices of past and present ACE students, while also opening up the platform to the many future ACE students and supporters out there.

Representing the voice of ACE students past is Ms. Ersela Demerson, the original ACE graduate from Palo Duro High School’s Class of 1997. Ersela graduated ahead of her cohort in three years, the rest of her inaugural class graduated in 1998, making her literally the first ACE graduate.

AAF: Ersela, we think your ambition to graduate high school in three years embodies the driven spirit of ACE students, but in your own words can you describe for us what ACE means to you, and now as a leader in the Amarillo community, what you see it continuing to mean to students in the future?

Demerson: My situation wasn’t a stereotypical situation you might expect to hear about. Both of my parents were college educated, I grew up understanding the importance of education. For me, ACE solved an economic issue. My dad was a minister, and my mom was laid off at the time I graduated high school and was looking to go to college. So going to college was never a question, but how to pay for it was. I assumed I would have to probably take some time off during undergrad. But because of ACE I didn’t have to and I was able to go on after my bachelor’s and receive a master’s as well.

As far as what ACE means for students now and in the future I think it can be summarized as an opportunity for students to invest in themselves and their futures, while also receiving a sense of accomplishment for their work. ACE is a hand-up and not a handout. It may be a model stressing the importance of education and attendance for students not receiving that message at home, but more than anything, I think many students’ experiences were like my own and what they get from ACE is a phenomenal opportunity and a message of hope.

To see a video of Ersela where she talks about the importance of ACE click here

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Providing a voice for present ACE college students, is Makayla Ksor, a sophomore pursuing a degree in Fine Arts at Amarillo College. Unlike Ersela, Makayla’s parents did not attend university.

Ksor: ACE was always there when I needed assistance. I could always just email and make an appointment with an ACE advisor if I needed help figuring out the different aspects of being a college student. They also helped me in high school with deadlines and applications, managing expenses, which classes to take, and which college was best for me. Once in college I was even urged by ACE to become a part of a mentor program so that I could have an advisor with a major similar, if not the same to my own, who would understand my plight on a corresponding level. Yet, the biggest impact ACE has made in my college experience would be the financial support. The idea of student loans scared me.

AAF: Makayla, can you share with us what you wish others knew about ACE?

Ksor: When I ask students if they have ACE or not, most of them say that they lost their ACE in high school. I respond by asking, “Well, did you try to get it back by talking to an ACE advisor?” Usually, they just shrug and say, “No, it didn’t really matter to me.” It surprises me how many students would lose their ACE, not knowing how important it is to have or what it could do for them, or even just too afraid to ask about it. I feel like if students were more aware of what ACE really does for themselves and others they would care more about their own ACE and get the guidance they need.

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The Amarillo Area Foundation Awards over $1 Million to Area Nonprofits

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

AMARILLO – The Board of Directors of the Amarillo Area Foundation, and its supporting organization The Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation, have awarded $1,025,144 in grants with their general grantmaking funds.

The Amarillo Area Foundation has also awarded an additional $325, 446 this year through funds established by local industry employers such as CNS Pantex, and Pattern Panhandle Wind Energy. The Kathy Ryan family also awarded $30,000 to local firefighters to honor the anniversary of their mother’s passing.

Fourteen Amarillo area nonprofit organizations were approved for funding with discretionary grantmaking dollars. 57% of the projects supported in this grant cycle were capital projects. Among the capital projects supported is a $500,000 grant to Heal the City for renovations at the former Midtown Branch YMCA to create a usable room for wellness activities. The other 43% of projects supported were program based.

President and CEO, Clay Stribling said, “Our first discretionary grant cycle really emphasizes our commitment to various aspects of community health. Not only do we want to improve the physical health for our constituents, we also want to support healthy communities with healthy economies and nonprofit organizations.”

“Applications were accepted from nonprofit organizations from across the Panhandle. Proposals were then reviewed by Area Foundation staff and presented to the board for consideration,” said Katharyn Wiegand, Vice President of Community Engagement.

Visit amarilloareafoundation.org/grants for more information on upcoming grant cycles. For questions about eligibility or the grant process contact Kathie Grant, Grants Administrator at kathie@aaf-hf.org. For questions regarding Foundation priorities and focus areas, contact Jessica Tudyk, Grants Manager at jessica@aaf-hf.org . Both can also be reached at 806-376-4521.

The full list of recipients is available here.

 

About the Amarillo Area Foundation

The Amarillo Area Foundation is a community foundation that serves the northernmost 26 counties of the Texas Panhandle. The mission of the Foundation is to improve the quality of life in the Texas Panhandle. Since its inception in 1957, the Foundation has provided grants and a variety of other services to strengthen nonprofit organizations and the services they deliver.

#WHYACE: For the Peeples

Blog_headerThis week we are visiting with the 2015 Council of Chief State Officers Teacher of the Year, Ms. Shanna Peeples. CCSO Teacher of the Year is the oldest most prestigious national accolade of its kind. Since receiving the award, Peeples since spent the past year traveling the globe as an ambassador for education.

Peeples is a graduate of West Texas A&M University, an ACE network university, and an AP English teacher at one of our ACE schools, Palo Duro High School. We are delighted to interview Shanna and capture her thoughts on ACE.

AAF: So Shanna, as an award-winning educator, what do you see ACE doing for your students?

Peeples: I am grateful that ACE has an attendance requirement because research strongly supports the correlation between a student just being in school and that student’s probability of graduating. It’s hard to overstate how much low-income students struggle with the demands of helping their families pay the bills. These demands can take the shape of time spent caring for siblings or other family members while the parent or guardian is at work, or in the form of work to help pay household bills. Or both. Those who are blessed with not having to make the choice between these kinds of demands and school attendance may have a hard time understanding the pressures faced by students who grow up in poverty. For many high school students in poverty, life is a constant cost-benefit analysis: what is worth more? Keeping my family on track or going to school today? ACE, in a very concrete sense, helps students see the benefits of education.

AAF: You’ve done a ton of traveling over the last year advocating for education. In your travels, have you recognized or heard about programs similar to ACE?

Peeples: I’ve not heard about programs similar to ACE in the way it is so broad-based and open to so many students.

AAF: One of the belief statements of AISD is that “education is the equalizer in our society and that our schools can and should provide a culture of hope for all children.” How do you see ACE contributing to that belief statement for students?

Peeples: Here’s the thing: hope is not an abstraction. Hope is built by the actions and the attitudes around us. That’s how I translate the belief statement. The use of the word “can” implies that what we do every day in our classrooms builds hope. And the word “should” means that it’s a moral decision to create that hope. What we choose to do or what we choose to neglect has consequences. This foundation of hope depends on our community to reflect the message to every child that they matter, that they have value, and that we expect them to take their places in our neighborhoods as citizens. ACE contributes to the belief with a solid plan for every student to meet those expectations in the way of financial help for college.

AAF: What do you wish our community knew about ACE?

Peeples: I want Amarillo to be proud of the fact that we have programs like ACE that are just plain smart economics. For every dollar we invest in education, we get triple in return, according to data from California State University. College graduates not only return millions of dollars to the state, but they tend to be healthier, have more stable relationships, and volunteer at higher rates – all quality of life indicators that make a city attractive to outside investors.

AAF: Triple the return, we’ll conclude on that note. It’s been an honor, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.

Peeples: Thank you for letting me speak about a subject I love: education!

That is all for this week. Join us next week, on the eve of AISD graduation, as we conclude our series with the voices of ACE students past and present.

Till next week!

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Going Digital: No Limits No Excuses Acquires App, Co-Pilot, and Virtual Job Shadowing to Engage High School Students

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No Limits No Excuses is in the midst of significant work that’s engaging students for success beyond high school. We are creating a smartphone app that guides students as they make plans for education beyond high school. The app will aid them as they navigate the waters between high school and college, and help them decide what it is they want to do. The app is designed specially to appeal to high school juniors and seniors as well as college freshmen. This is when students need to give serious thought to their plans. We are working with AISD’s counselors to ensure that the app will help them engage students and improve college success.

NLNE has also made an exciting purchase of CoPilot software. In CoPilot’s database, through data shared by AISD, AC, WTAMU, and Cal Farley’s, we will be able to track a student from one institution to another. This will allow us to see that our NLNE student engagement events are leading to postsecondary success. The sharing of the data in CoPilot emphasizes one more way NLNE is collaborating to strengthen our community.

As we begin to engage students, we have to make decisions about what that looks like. We could plan career fairs and other events to engage students, but these events are often expensive and have only short-term effects. The Workforce Workgroup has come up with an idea modeled after the extremely popular Humans of New York social media campaign. We are calling it a virtual job shadow, or job fair. We will partner with large local employers who utilize a diverse workforce to introduce students to jobs available in Amarillo. This is exciting because it puts the emphasis on jobs and employers in Amarillo, but more importantly it engages students to see what occupational opportunities are available to them locally.

We are just winding down our FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) contest which has been a huge success. We are encouraged as we continue to engage students and work to eliminate barriers to postsecondary education in Amarillo, especially as graduation approaches for 2016 seniors.

by Broc Carter