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Going before the Education Reform Commission on Long Island

Since Gov. Cuomo assembled his Education Reform Commission, our team has been closely following its work. And yesterday, NYCAN Executive Director Christina Grant had the chance to address the group during a public hearing on Long Island.

It was a special occasion for Christina. She was raised in Hempstead, Long Island—one of the lowest-performing suburban school districts in the state. Only 30 percent of students who entered Hempstead High School in 2007 graduated on time. 

Moreover, Christina was a first-generation college student who got a meaningful head start on her undergraduate studies because of a partnership between Hempstead High School and Hofstra Universitya partnership that brings to mind the early college high school initiative we have been championing since January. Christina used her speaking time yesterday to advance that advocacy.

Her message: Allow early college high schools to access Tuition Assistance Program funds on behalf of their eligible students, so the initiative may sustain itself. The initiative is giving our kids new opportunities every day, and it represents a viable way of narrowing New York’s college gap, especially for students of color and low-income.

“In addition to the K-12 achievement gaps we are all keenly aware of, New York is facing an unacceptable 'college-ready’ and ‘college-bound’ gap,” Christina told the commission. “Even when we get kids through high school and to college, they’re not getting out, or they are taking longer. That is forcing them to miss opportunities, and it’s forcing them and our state to incur additional costs.”

More than 300 people gathered yesterday in the Student Union building at SUNY College, Old Westbury. We thought the venue was appropriate: The college has a Smart Scholars partnership with Roosevelt High. Christina highlighted that program in her testimony, as well as similar programs in Freeport, Brentwood, Wyandanch, Amityville and Christina’s hometown of Hempstead.

In her remarks, Christina touched upon her own early college experience:

“Not only did I graduate from high school, but I also went on to graduate from Hofstra,” she said. “In that program, I learned about everything from office hours to asking for help and how to find a tutor. All the while, I was accruing true college credit.” 

That experience made a tremendous difference for Christina. And today’s early college high school initiative does even more for New York students. It’s not just dual enrollment or occasional college classes.

“Kids are earning their associate degrees while they are in high school," Christina said. "Kids are taking high school classes during the day and nursing classes at night. And kids are graduating high school well on the track to pursue their career goals.”

We hope that resonates with commission members, and we hope they will take Christina's words to heart as they draft their recommendations for Gov. Cuomo.