For too many Nashville high school students, college seems a distant possibility— or worse, an unattainable dream. But the ability to reach and complete post-secondary education opportunities can be a critical factor in exiting the cycle of poverty.
Recognizing this reality, the Oasis Center formed the Oasis College Connection (OCC) in 2008. This intensive, college-counseling program provides individualized admissions and financial aid expertise to Nashville area students and their families.
At OCC, students connect with a mentor who is responsible for supporting them throughout the college enrollment process. The Center offers ACT prep and FAFSA assistance, as well as opportunities to talk with college representatives and visit college campuses. Most importantly, the OCC helps counsel students on their search for a college or program that will suit their needs and interests best, setting them up for a better chance to be successful in completing their degree. Even after students have graduated high school and entered their post-secondary programs, OCC mentors will continue to offer them guidance and support as they navigate their education journey.
The Scarlett Family Foundation has provided funding for Oasis College Connection since 2008, inspired by the belief that all students deserve access to resources that will allow them to become college ready. Through their school-based model, OCC has worked with over 5,000 Metro Nashville Public School (MNPS) students in 10 high schools, their feeder middle schools, and Nashville State Community College.
In order to provide the best resources for students, Oasis College Connection works in close partnership with MNPS, both inside and outside of the classroom. This provides ample opportunity to discuss college access in group settings and to host personalized one-on-one meetings. Teachers and school leaders are true partners to the College Connection mentors, each group collaborating with the others to teach students that tomorrow is as important as today.
In the Blueprint for Early Childhood Success, a citywide framework to improve Nashville’s literacy rates, the words “parent,” “family(ies),” and “generation” are mentioned more than 300 times. The Blueprint’s research and recommendations indicate that parental engagement is critical for childhood success. However, such support is practically impossible for parents who can’t read or who lack English-speaking skills.
The Nashville Public Library estimates that 250,000 Nashvillians need adult education support, like basic literacy, high school equivalency, and English. As a city, we are serving just one percent. Adult literacy rates impact every part of Nashville: employment and poverty levels, healthcare costs, K-12 school performance, and general dependence on systems for support.
The Nashville Adult Literacy Council (NALC)’s vision is for all Nashville adults to attain the literacy skills they need to navigate life and support their children. NALC learners become more independent and confident through improved health, financial security, and family and community engagement.
NALC’s mission is to teach reading, writing, and English-speaking skills to Nashville adults. Since 2008, the Foundation has supported the Start Now tutoring program at the Antioch branch. Their services provide learners with a safe place to learn and grow, primarily through one-on-one tutoring, supported by a network of dedicated volunteers. The nonprofit efficiently coordinates with partners and ensures students find the best options for their goals so they can feel the difference in their day-to-day lives.
Whether it’s working toward a new job, earning a degree, or helping a child with homework, NALC values and prioritizes each individual’s learning needs. In short, NALC teaches children how to read by teaching parents how to read.Read More
Almost 19 percent of Metro Nashville Public Schools’ student population qualifies as English Language Learners (ELLs). This means MNPS alone serves one-third of the states’ students who are learning English. With the right support, and intensive focus on their unique needs, these newcomer students can not only integrate socially— but also succeed in school and life.
So in 2016, the Foundation helped launch the Nashville Newcomers Academy (NNA), an innovative, first-of-its-kind partnership between MNPS and public charter school STEM Prep Academy to serve our newest young Americans with the most urgent needs.
Funding specifically supported placing additional highly-trained teachers in classrooms at the school to provide direct, intensive language instruction and co-facilitate the school’s inquiry-based college preparatory curriculum within general education classes. Through focused delivery of instruction and services, NNA is advancing immigrant and refugee students’ social-emotional well-being while promoting stability and empowerment within a small, safe classroom environment. Nearly 100 percent of NNA students have experienced interrupted formal education, and in some cases, no formal education. To support social integration and preserve important cultural identities, students participate in daily advisories with diverse peers, trauma-informed group and individual sessions with the school’s counseling team, and are paired with an older peer to help them thrive socially as well as academically.
To be eligible to attend the Nashville Newcomer Academy, students must have lived in the United States for less than one year and scored the lowest possible level on the state’s English language assessment given to all students with non-English language backgrounds. The program annually serves over 100 students in grades 5-9. NNA students represent over 20 different native countries from around the globe.
To date, in reading these students have grown four grade levels in one school year, beginning with no alphabet recognition to reading at a high third grade level. NNA students’ attendance averages 95%.
The Academy also advances achievement of this population district-wide through a demonstration school model and provides professional development for educators at other schools serving high concentrations of newcomer students.Read More
Parents are key to a child’s academic success— they are their first teacher, advocate, coach and more. If a parent is unable to navigate the school system or build strong relationships with teachers, the student isn’t able to benefit from an effective partnership between home and school. Empowering all parents, regardless of background or income level, to partner in their children’s education can improve academic achievement and spark community-wide change.
That’s why, since 2010, the Foundation has provided funding to grow the “Parents as Partners” program through Conexión Américas, which aims to foster a working relationship between Latino parents and schools, to improve children’s academic achievement.
Conexión Américas staff and a team of trained parent facilitators deliver workshops in Spanish and use a unique curriculum specific to parents’ needs for pre-k, elementary, and middle/high school.
Participants partner with this team of parent facilitators who have already gone through the program to learn topics like how to understand and navigate the US school system; parent-teacher communication and advocating for their child; and building a strong learning environment in the home. Parents also have the opportunity to talk with principals and teachers in a supportive environment.
This parent-to-parent approach aligns with Conexión Américas’ core value of building the skills of participants and assisting them in being the principal agents of community change.
Annually, over 300 parents participate in the program, representing more than 500 children at 15 to 17 schools.Read More
Lipscomb University School Leadership Program: Preparing Future Principals to Lead High-Quality Schools
Just like any business or organization, high-quality schools need effective leaders. Yet each year, the State of Tennessee faces the challenge of filling roughly 270 school leader positions. That means 15 percent of school leadership positions turn over annually. To help our schools, teachers, and students succeed, our state must recruit and retain more quality leaders.
That’s why The Foundation is helping to fund scholarships for aspiring school leaders to participate in the Ayers Fellows Program at Lipscomb University. The two-year program is built around 31 research-based competencies and best practices in principal leadership preparation.
In addition to earning a Master of Education (M.Ed.) or Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Educational Leadership, high-caliber aspiring school leaders develop and master these competencies and benefit from mentoring relationships and district clinical experiences with current administrators. These partnerships allow fellows to connect their coursework directly into real-world work and learn from seasoned professionals about leading schools and districts.
Graduates are equipped to be transformational leaders in their districts and make an impact. As of 2017, 50 percent of graduates have already been promoted to full time principal roles— including 6 counties in middle Tennessee.Read More
Academies of Nashville: Helping High School Students Earn a Post-Secondary Credential & Be Career-Ready
The majority of jobs in today’s economy require education beyond high school before employment. Having the opportunity to gain an industry certification while enrolled in high school equips students with a market-ready skill upon graduation. Colleges and universities also value industry certifications, as this designation indicates a student has successfully taken and passed a rigorous exam in a specific field, demonstrating promise for college and career success.
The Academies of Nashville, housed in the 12 largest neighborhood high school campuses of Metro Nashville Public Schools, provide students the ability to pursue a career pathway of study in fields ranging from healthcare and engineering to hospitality and automotive technology— all before graduation. Every pathway offers early college credit and many provide an opportunity to gain an industry credential. However, the exams can cost up to several hundred dollars— a prohibitive financial barrier for many students.
In partnership with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Foundation provided funding to support the expansion of MNPS’s student industry certifications program and help remove that financial barrier for students pursuing a credential.
Specifically, the three-year investment helped to defray the cost of industry certification examination fees and supported professional development for career and technical education teachers to earn the related industry certifications.
As a result, the number of students registered and sitting for the exams nearly doubled in the 2017-2018 school year. The number of students who passed industry certifications also increased, raising the pass rate two percentage points to 61 percent.Read More