DDHS, UW-Whitewater partnership provides Academic Excellence

DELAVAN — Up to 100 Delavan-Darien High School students will have a head start when it comes to college preparation thanks to a partnership between the school and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Office of Pre-College Programs.

The partnership — called the Academic Excellence Program and funded by a grant through the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation — will offer tutoring to high school students for 90 minutes, two days per week by DDHS teachers and UW-Whitewater students; offer academic advising to students on Fridays over the lunch period by various UW-Whitewater representatives; and a once-per-month Saturday College Seminar at UW-Whitewater for students and their parents.

UW-Whitewater will pay the two DDHS teacher tutors a $1,000 stipend once per semester and provide tutor assistants and representatives to do the regular academic advising at DDHS.

The goal is to have at between 60 and 100 DDHS students participate in the program, said DDHS counselor Olivia Navarro. It is open to students who are from low-income families, would be first-generation college students, or both.

Olivia Navarro

Olivia Navarro

“I feel like this is an opportunity that will allow for students to dream and understand that their goals can be achieved,” Navarro said. “The doors are open for them regardless of who they are or where they came from. There are people and programs out there that can help them succeed. This program will help them build an awareness of what college is all about.”

The Academic Excellence Program is designed around the concept of “holistic community learning,” which incorporates and encourages active participation from many, including parents, teachers, school administrators and the broader community. Students in the program will develop an academic success strategy based on factors such as grades, ACT scores and input from teachers and parents through the advising process.

Tutoring in school with teachers and the UW-Whitewater students will help DDHS students stay on task and on target with assigned schoolwork. Participants are connected to the tutoring services upon request of their parents or when a grade in a particular course is a “C” or below.

The Saturday College Seminar workshops will touch on topics such as applying for college, financial aid, setting goals, time management and other positive academic success skills. UW-Whitewater will provide bus transportation from DDHS to the college campus.

Ramon Ortiz

Ramon Ortiz

“This connects or reconnects the students with the campus and the college-going culture,” said Ramon Ortiz, director of the UW-Whitewater Office of Pre-College Programs. “By being here, the mission of going to college is reinforced.”

Ortiz said the parts of the program — tutoring, advising, Saturday visits and connecting with college mentors — are coordinated in a manner so that they add value to the student’s overall experience as they prepare for college and careers.

“Establishing this Pre-College partnership with UW-Whitewater is another way that we are able to promote high levels of learning and success for all students,” DDHS Principal Mark Schmitt said. “This program aligns perfectly with our strategic plan and will allow students make the transition to college and become 21st Century learners.”

When she heard about the grant UW-Whitewater received to offer the program in area schools (Janesville’s Craig and Parker high schools are also participating), Navarro was excited to see that DDHS could become a partner in it.

“I was part of a Pre-College Program when I was in high school,” she said. “I was a first-generation, Latina college student. No one in my family went to college before me and it really opened the doors for me to see that college was a possibility. To me, it changed my life being a part of that program. When I heard of it at UW-Whitewater, I was an advocate to see that we were a partner.”

This academic year program is a continuation of a partnership DDHS had with UW-Whitewater over the summer where 38 DDHS received tutoring, academic advising, support and mentoring through the university. That portion of the program was also open to first-generation college students and students from low-income families. The summer program activities focused on academic success in high school and performance on standardized tests in preparation for postsecondary education.

Those 38 students, who stayed on the UW-Whitewater campus for between two to six weeks, will be a part of the Academic Excellence Program this school year, as well.


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