Tag Archives: NLNE

NLNE The Partners: West Texas A&M Univesity

No Limits No Excuses: How did WTAMU get involved with No Limits, No Excuses?

West Texas A&M University: My understanding is that James Hallmark – who was the Provost at the time – had been involved with Amarillo Area Foundation and Panhandle 2020 and he was the first to hook in to what is now No Limits, No Excuses. I think they called it PPS at the time. So, he was the Provost and I was the Associate Provost, and he knew that I had been involved in  P16 initiatives for a while as a faculty member and so he asked me to start attending the meetings, and shortly after that, he left the university to go to College Station and I became the Provost.

But by that time, I think I knew enough about it that we had to be involved and  it’s something I feel strongly and passionate about, so rather than delegate it to someone else, I tried to maintain my role there. We’ve had several other people who have been involved in it as well.

 

NLNE:  What’s kept WT’s involvement during the five-plus years since No Limits, No Excuses has started?

WT: Well, I think you have to step back and look at the big picture. First of all, we’re an educational institution and so, educational attainment and providing people with high quality higher education, that’s the core mission of what we are. No Limits, No Excuses, even though it moves in lots of different directions, it looks at poverty, it looks at job training and all these other things, at its core it’s still about increasing the educational attainment of the region that we’re located in.

 

We can only thrive, we can only grow if the area that we’re located in is thriving and growing as well, and so in a sense, that’s maybe self-serving because a strong Panhandle means a strong WT. But more importantly, it’s what we’re put here to do. It’s our goal. It’s our mission. It’s to reach as many people in the area as we can and provide them with educational opportunities, and I think to partner with Amarillo College, to partner with AISD, to partner with business and to integrate ourselves into the community even more strongly than we already are.

 

NLNE: How has the partnership increased your relationship with other institutions?

WT: I guess I’ll answer that in two parts. Personally, I have gained such a broader understanding of how Amarillo College operates, the leadership there, their mission and certainly, the same is true of AISD. For a lot of people at the university, we don’t have to think very much or very hard about the independent school districts that are in the region.

I always joke about college professors who think that their students drop from the heavens on the first day of class, and don’t have any prior experience or knowledge. So, to learn about the issues facing them, to learn for instance, about the level of poverty, the number of children who are on free and reduced lunches, to learn about the breadth of programming that Amarillo College has.

All that is knowledge that I carry to meetings that I have on campus when we talk about, what’s our goal, what’s our vision, how do we connect with these people? It just provides me with the breadth of knowledge I didn’t have, and then connections, quite honestly, to important people like Russell Lowery-Hart and Dana West. I would probably not move in those circles otherwise if I didn’t have this connection.

As an institution, I think that the answer is also very similar. I try to share that information as I said, in meetings when I’m with the deans, when I’m with the President, when I’m with other people, to either clarify things or to point out chances for us to partner, or chances for us to work on a common initiative. Dr. Wendler is very open and very interested in those sorts of things, so I think that will pick up some steam now that he’s assumed his leadership role here on campus. Continue reading

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

 

 

Finding Will

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I am busy. That’s my attitude most of the time. I am just too busy to solve the world’s problems. I am in the stage of life where balance between life, family, and work is key. I literally have no time. Besides, I am just me, one person, what can I do. I am sure you find yourself with the same sentiment at times.

Then, I sat through what I like to call “the indoctrination of Doug Curry.” Have you met him? Have you ever heard him talk about young people? He inspires you to put aside your own expectations or judgments. He talks about chance encounters and how to influence our young citizens. He has a plan to ensure all students are pestered until they create a plan for life after high school. So, now, wherever I go, I ask young adults, “What’s your plan?”

Doug and Dr. Dana West started this movement, and now I cannot stop asking the question. One day, an unsuspecting sacker at United, whom I will call Will, was just minding his own business. I asked him where he went to school, he said, “Tascosa, I’m a Rebel.” He said that in a way that let me know it wasn’t just his mascot, but perhaps a way of life.

Then I released the hounds, “What’s your plan after high school, Will?”

He stuttered and spurted and finally let it out: “I’m an artist, I don’t think school is for me.”

“Really? I have a ton of friends who are artists, and they all went to school,” I replied.

“Yeah, I don’t like people telling me what to do when it comes to art,” Will said back.

It was clear that I was dealing with the typical thoughts of teenagers, who today have a lot of pressure on them. “You know graphic artists are very talented, and they do really important work. The process of school will not make you lose your artistic expression, but more like unearth all the talent that’s within you. Amarillo College and WT both have great programs for artists,” I explained. Continue reading

#WHYACE: A Culture of Hope

Blog_headerAs we begin our fourth week of the ACE Blog series, we are shifting our focus to Amarillo Independent School District’s perspective on ACE. More specifically, we are letting AISD Superintendent, Dr. Dana West; Caprock Principal, David Bishop; and Guidance and Counselling Program Director, Tracey Morman do most of the talking.

Like good reporters we did some research on AISD’s mission and belief statements beforehand. Belief statement No. 2 immediately stood out: “We believe that education is the equalizer in our society and that our schools can and should provide a culture of hope for all children.” Sounds vaguely like ACE, no? So we decided to chat with Dr. West to see if she agreed.

AAF: When did you first learn about ACE and what was your initial perception of it?

Superintendent West: Well you’re going to laugh when you hear this, but I was new to Amarillo as a principal at Travis Middle School and I really just thought ACE was this assembly we did every six weeks encouraging attendance, grades, and good behavior. Obviously, my understanding has changed since then. The conversation transitions from “here’s a certificate and free pencil” to “people in our community will help you pay for and achieve your scholastic goals.”

AAF: That is funny. As an administrator what would you value most then about ACE?

Superintendent West: It’s our community’s commitment to our district’s mission. Graduate every student prepared for success beyond high school. What is your plan? Your community supports you.

AAF: You’re emphasizing both ACE and No Limits No Excuses with that statement. So I was really moved to see that one of AISD’s belief statements is that education is one of the great equalizers in our society and you believe that your schools should provide a culture of hope for all children. How do you see ACE contributing to that belief statement?

Superintendent West: ACE reiterates the culture of hope in our schools by emphasizing that everyone is committed to the economic development of Amarillo. ACE says our community realizes that our economic development relies on our scholars in our local schools. In many ways ACE makes our community put our money where our mouth is to show that support. We can then create hope in our students because we have a program that blatantly displays that community effort and support.

Creating a culture of community support all their own, is Principal David Bishop of Caprock and his staff. We sat down with Mr. Bishop and here is what he had to say:

Principal Bishop: ACE is a tool that helps us build a conversation around a K-16 plan instead of a K-12 plan. If you shape students to believe going to college is achievable and a part of their personal plan just like going to high school is, you would be amazed by how much they listen and internalize that message. ACE has specifically caused a cultural shift on our campus. College wouldn’t have always been a part of the conversation here 10-15 years ago.

AAF: Can you tell me a bit about what you have done to make ACE unique at your campus?

Principal Bishop: Well we have two really special features to our ACE program that are fairly new. We have the $25,000 check we give to each of our incoming freshman students on our Freshman Walk and we have ACE Insurance Agents.

AAF: Explain to me more about these checks. What are they?

Continue reading

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

#WHYACE: Let’s Talk Logistics

College is expensive. We hear and read that every day on countless social media and news platforms. The numbers are staggering when you add up the cost of tuition, fees, books, plus room and board.

To help with some of that sticker shock, ACE covers a portion of college costs for Caprock, Palo Duro, and select Tascosa students attending either AC or WT. For a further explanation of why that is, refer back to last week’s blog, which you can do here

If you are already up to speed, let’s proceed! ACE specifically covers the costs of tuition, fees, and books at AC and WT.

You may be wondering what the current costs at AC and WT are. So we gathered that information for you.

The current cost of tuition, fees, and books at AC is $2,260 a semester.

The current cost of tuition, fees, and books at WT is $4,859 a semester.

However, ACE doesn’t pay that full amount for each ACE student every semester. ACE pays about $396 a semester for ACE students attending AC and $1,416 a semester for ACE students attending WT.

ACE pays a combined average of $783 per student a semester to attend either AC or WT.

If that combined average seems noticeably less than the costs listed above, that’s because it is. ACE only pays a fraction of the cost of tuition, fees, and books at AC and WT because filing for federal aid and scholarships is a requirement of the ACE program. The financial aid and scholarships ACE students receive cover a significant portion of their expenses, leaving ACE to supplement the remaining costs, which also allows substantially more students to benefit from the ACE program for many generations to come. Continue reading