The Boston Higher Education Resource Center’s (HERC) Passport to College Program is a Latino-led, culturally-sensitive, college readiness program focused on failure-proofing first-generation students of color throughout their journey through college, enabling them to break the cycle of poverty and become leaders in their community. Passport targets students of color who are first-generation, low-income, and attending failing or under-resourced non-exam high schools. Nearly all Passport students (90%) are economically-disadvantaged; nearly all (90%) are first-generation to college.
We believe that closing the Opportunity and Achievement Gaps is possible – and if there is any community poised to do this, it is Boston. We also believe that doing so requires “re-wiring” the minds of first-generation students of color graduating from BPS high schools. For Passport, that means immersing as many youth as possible in what we call the “Habits of the Mind”: 21st Century skills that are indispensable for their success in college and in the innovation-driven Boston workplace they will soon inhabit. The “Habits of the Mind” are woven throughout the 52 lessons of the 500-page Passport Curriculum, specifically designed for first-generation students in BPS classrooms. But what gives Passport its power is that it is transmitted via a corps of Passport Coaches – all of whom are first-generation themselves – who spend an average of 15 to 20 hours per week, throughout the school year, providing their Passport Scholars no less than 1.5 hours to 2 hours of instruction each week in a classroom cohort setting, in addition to out-of-class individual counseling.
It is this team of Passport Coaches imparting the Habits of the Mind in BPS classrooms that is most likely to “failure-proof” our first-generation Passport Scholars and propel them to greatness: 91% (245 of our 270) of our Class of 2017 Passport Seniors are pursuing a post-secondary degree this Fall; 81.3% (230 of 283) of the Class of 2016 BPS Passport Alumni advanced successfully from their Freshman to Sophomore year; and 87% of the first-generation students who go on to college from Passport since the inception of the program in 2004 have graduated within 5-years of enrollment. In the words of one recent Passport graduate: “They helped me find my place and fit into a world I knew nothing about. Their Coaches made me believe I could attend college. Now I do.”
This is Hestia’s second year funding Boston HERC. Hestia’s grant of $35,000 will support the Passport to College Program.