MAP for success: Ernst & Young and CFES unlock Potential for High School Students

by LP Green, II

(l to r):  Jessica Meyer, Cody Academy of Public Leadership (APL) school liaison; Donniqua Alexander, APL scholar; Janice Smith, Ernst & Young LLP Executive Director; and Briana Rutland, APL scholar

Mentoring program helps students in Detroit and several other cities through college

Education can transform lives. Yet, many high school students don’t consider going to college. The goal seems too distant, the application process too confusing, the cost too expensive and the rewards too unclear. Ernst & Young is working with high schools and the nonprofit organization – College For Every Student (CFES) – to remove these obstacles. Through the College Mentoring for Access and Persistence (College MAP) program, volunteers from Ernst & Young help underserved students better understand the process of applying to and affording college.

College MAP, which was launched in 2009, encourages students who might not have considered applying to college to do so by matching teams of Ernst & Young volunteer mentors with groups of local 11th and 12th graders. In periodic sessions, they work with students to: (1) raise their awareness of the lifelong benefits higher education can bring; (2) develop their financial readiness to apply for aid and pay for college; and (3) sharpen their persistence skills to complete a degree and succeed in careers.

For example, the Detroit program had great results in 2012 with 10 College MAP scholars at Cody High School (Cody), all of whom were accepted into post-secondary education. Ernst & Young LLP Assistant Director Trina Scott served as a program director. “We are definitely changing lives of not only the scholars that we’ve touched, but the students overall, by spreading a ‘can do’ attitude,” Scott says. “Yes, it takes a lot of time, dedication and commitment, but it’s so worth it.”

In 2013, the Detroit program drew more than 30 students in two schools established on the Cody campus. More volunteers have stepped up, like Ernst & Young LLP Advisory Executive Director Janice Smith, who was a mentor in 2012 and is now a program director. At a scholar meeting held at Cody’s Academy of Public Leadership, Smith paired mentors with students to write essays on what participating in College MAP or going to college means to them. The seven scholars with the most compelling essays were selected to attend a board session with the United Way of Southeast Michigan.

“The students come from schools that have traditionally low graduation rates and even lower college enrollment rates. To see them succeed and go to college is incredible,” says Dave Sewell, Ernst & Young LLP Assurance Partner and Executive Sponsor for College MAP in Atlanta. “These are students who have potential, but can get stuck in the middle of the road. Our mentors give them a little push and help get them over the hump.”

College MAP has helped hundreds of young people, and expects to reach thousands in the future. The program currently operates in the following cities: Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Portland (Oregon), Rochester and San Jose. In 2013, sites are expanding to Cleveland, Charlotte, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Providence, Richmond, San Antonio, San Francisco, Secaucus and Toledo.

The numbers don’t lie

An education can mean the difference between just getting by and succeeding in life. According to a 2011 study by University of Michigan economists Martha Bailey and Susan Dynarski, about 54% of college students in the top economic quartile graduated from college in the early 2000s, compared to only 9% of students in the bottom economic quartile.

“We created College MAP because we believe it is essential for businesses like ours to address the widening gap between the demands of the workplace and the educational attainment of America’s young people,” says Gary Belske, Ernst & Young Senior Vice Chair, Americas COO and College MAP Executive Sponsor. To date, more than 145 high school seniors have successfully completed the two-year College MAP program and 90% have enrolled in colleges across the country.

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