by Colton Campbell

The University of West Georgia is partnering with a non-profit corporation with a vision that all students educated in Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will complete post-­secondary education and obtain the full benefits a higher education provides.

Leaders of both UWG and Achieve Atlanta signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enter into the partnership, which marks a collaborative effort to increase enrollment, retention and graduation for APS students at UWG.

Three students gather around in a public space on UWG's campus to talk and study together

According to the MOU, these goals will be achieved by helping eliminate financial barriers through scholarships and enhance academic opportunities by providing support, mentoring and coaching through UWG’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

UWG President Kyle Marrero said Achieve Atlanta’s mission aligns with the university’s primary strategic imperative of ensuring student success.

“At UWG, we believe engaged faculty and staff are critical to creating an environment in which students can succeed, inside the classroom and in life,” Marrero said. “This partnership with Achieve Atlanta will ensure that potential students will have greater awareness of and access to our institution, which empowers them to become graduates and contribute responsibly and creatively to a complex 21st-century global society.”

An APS graduate who attends UWG is eligible to receive an Achieve Atlanta scholarship up to $5,000 per year, renewable for up to four years. Approximately 50 students from APS enrolled at UWG under the MOU in the fall 2018 semester.

Since launching in 2015 with a $20 million grant from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, Achieve Atlanta has awarded nearly $11 million in need-based scholarships statewide, starting with the class of 2016.

Each year, the number of Achieve Atlanta scholarship recipients has increased, from 586 students that first year to 840 students from the class of 2018, roughly a third of all APS graduates.

“We are thrilled to partner with UWG to support the college success of Achieve Atlanta Scholars because we firmly believe that through intentional collaboration, we can solve the complex problem of low-degree attainment and help students achieve their dreams,” said Tina Fernandez, Achieve Atlanta’s executive director.

Achieve Atlanta has offered UWG official “Achieve Atlanta College Partner” status, meets regularly with UWG staff to improve college persistence and completion of Achieve Atlanta Scholars, and will facilitate opportunities for representatives from UWG to meet with APS educators, counselors, administrators and students.

UWG’s responsibilities in the partnership include directed application outreach efforts toward APS students; educating APS counselors and advisers about UWG and its opportunities; promoting pre-college opportunities to APS students, counselors and advisers like campus visits and other events; and placement of Achieve Atlanta Scholars in programs designed to support their persistence and develop their leadership skills.

Dr. Yves-Rose Porcena, senior diversity officer at UWG, will serve as campus liaison between the university and Achieve Atlanta. Porcena said the corporation will offer annual assessments to evaluate students’ successful transition to the college experience.

“Our hope is that this partnership will help make UWG more attractive to and affordable for APS students, while also enhancing the college experience for these students,” Porcena said. “Many of these students are first-generation college students, so the partnership’s promise of personalized advising, peer mentoring and cultural enrichment to broaden community support will further their motivation for persistence and completion of post-secondary education.”

Posted on Jan. 9, 2019