Kennett’s WIN program inspires students to succeed

Loretta Perna and the WIN seniors from a few years ago.

Time to sign-up for colleges and scholarships. If this wasn’t a challenge in normal times, try now, when we are dealing with the formidable application process with all the restraints presented by the pandemic and especially for first-generation college applicants.

Jim Mercante, Jorge Ducchini and I recently interviewed Kristin Proto from The Garage Community Youth Center and Loretta Perna, Walk In kNowledge (WIN) program at Kennett High School about how they are handling college and scholarship applications. The concern is that students may be missing out on some available scholarships this year.

Kristin Proto and Loretta Perna have roles that keep them actively involved with Kennett high school students. In fact, they make it their mission to build strong, trusting relationships with their students and families. They both agreed that there are even more barriers to entering college this year.

Some colleges have waved SATs for acceptance, others have no waiver for SAT requirements for financial support. In-person workshops that helped students become informed of possible career choices have not continued this year. School Counselors’ advisory time for college discussions is now competing with issues around virtual learning. This is a tough year!

The good news is that The Garage Community and Youth Center has a designated person, a Graduate Coordinator, who researches scholarships and financial assistance for low-income students. She helps with the process of applying to schools for advanced learning and helps build student’s confidence in taking the next steps. The Garage, through generous donors, is able to provide some scholarships.

The Garage serves middle and high school students in both Kennett Square and Avon Grove, and helps students to explore career pathways and personal strengths which can inform their post-secondary plans. With the guidance of staff and volunteers, The Garage is assisting students with their exploration and plans beyond high school. But they don’t do this work alone.

Loretta Perna starts mentoring WIN students in their freshmen year, when students are receiving assistance from the teachers of WIN with their classwork and projects in the after-school tutoring program.She stresses the importance of establishing relationships with their counselors to discuss their future goals; plus, Loretta discusses various ways they will need to advocate for themselves throughout their high school and college years.

The WIN program also provides the seniors with extra-support for the whole process of applying to college, including scholarship and financial aid applications. Kennett High school has a list of local and other scholarships for which she helps students apply.

Beyond the application process, the greatest barrier to attending college is paying the tuition for higher education. Kristin Proto and Loretta Perna piece together scholarship applications from a variety of local sources, with the hope that a student will receive enough support for the first year. If they receive a fullride from a college or university, they still need help with room and board expenses.

These mentors find it very important to teach students how to advocate for themselves at the college/education institution for furthering scholarship support the following years. Because of the mentoring and assistance, the students receive during their high school careers, Loretta points out that this has proven successful for the majority of WIN students becoming college graduates, as they are well-prepared and motivated.

Most of these first-generation college students need to take on part-time jobs, while in college and they have the worry of financial needs back home. These students live under tremendous pressure for paying their tuition as well as room and board on an ongoing basis and carry the concern about incurring debt.

In asking how the community could help, the questions that were asked are good ones.

How do we develop Corporate Involvement in communicating with colleges about the need for more scholarship funds for first-generation low-income students? In other words, leverage the corporate influence with alma maters and local colleges.

Do local Corporations have scholarship funds that employees can contribute to? Would they consider matching contributions?

How can alumni from colleges become involved in helping students fill out applications and become mentors?

How do we generate more scholarships for low-income students? The Kennett Education Foundation, promoted by Bob George recently in a Story of Kennett editorial, is a great venue to make a contribution while being assured that motivated students will bring a great return on the investment.

Could we encourage more career discussions and career fairs in earlier grades to help students start developing their dreams?

Our community’s success is dependent on every person given the opportunity to move to the next level of his/her potential. Studies show that our colleges will be asking for women and minorities to become involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math professions, as this is where the future jobs will be growing.

Bright, motivated and eligible first-generation college students have this potential---How can we help shape our future and theirs by providing community resources and developing relationships that help them propel?

The Story of Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap. Contact Joan Holliday at dochollisv@aol.com

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