By Jennifer Davis, member, Board of Trustees
In May of 2015, I attended my first board of trustees meeting for Marathon Scholars. I am excited about what this organization has accomplished and what we can do to further the mission of making the dream of college a reality for talented, low-income kids. We identify high-potential students in the 4th grade and walk with them, providing them mentoring and a college scholarship, until they complete their bachelor’s degree.
I first learned about Marathon Scholars, when their executive director spoke at an iSing Choir concert as the beneficiary. I was attracted to several things about the organization.
First, we measure and hold ourselves accountable to the right thing: college graduations. Not college enrollments. The statistics around low-income and first generation college student graduation rates are deplorable and often these same students, with great potential and good intentions, apply and are accepted into college, but then cut their academic careers short of a degree (and the earning potential and opportunity that brings), but take with them student loans that can further burden their future. Marathon Scholars takes seriously their commitment, and that of the student scholar and their parents, to complete college and is delivering great results. Scholars in our program are 7x more likely than their peers to complete their degree.
Secondly, we start at the right time: 4th grade. We select students from partner elementary schools each year through an application process and pair them with mentors to help with individualized guidance, advising, and college prep programming for the next 12 years. This is critical for students who might be the first in their family to ever consider a college education. In addition, they receive the first of their college scholarship, totaling $12,000 donated month-by-month by a financial sponsor who is also dedicated to the student’s success. 4th grade might seem like too early to be talking about college, but it seemed to me to be the perfect time. Before they must persevere through advanced math and English classes. Before they start making life-impacting decisions that would later affect their college readiness. Before they are told that they are not college material, Marathon Scholars reminds them that they are!
I welcome you to join me in this good work. You can participate in many different ways, giving your time or resources to this great cause. Our scholars are in need of mentors, who can work with our students at different phases of their educational journey to help them arrive at a new and promising destination: the life of a college graduate! Contact the staff at Marathon for more information about volunteer opportunities.
You can also follow Marathon Scholars on Twitter, Facebook, subscribe to this blog, and via our email newsletter which you can access on this website. While you are there, you can also check out the great video of what mentoring means to these scholars. And mark your calendar for the upcoming gala fundraiser on March 4, 2017. We’d love to see you there!