While the six-year college graduation rate in Ector County ISD is better than it was in the 2013 class, there is still more to do.
For the 2015 semester, which is six years old, 29% of graduates have completed some type of degree, said Elizabeth Gray, the post-secondary education coordinator.
This is an improvement compared to the 6.5% of students in the class of 2013 who earned a technical certificate, two-year degree, or four-year degree within six years of graduating from high school.
Gray said she wasn’t sure why the increase was happening because the data was lagging. The district now has ways to track alumni.
“We started with our 2020 AVID graduating class, and then last year, we took every ECISD class for 2021. We are currently working with guidance and advice to support current seniors, which is the class of 2022 and then theirs” Gray said:
Her office makes sure that alumni know the Department of To and Through is there to support them through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), TASFA (Texas Application for State Financial Aid), the Texas Application, Applications for Admissions and Scholarships, and the Common Application.
“We have private lessons for ECISD students and alumni. We have supplies if they need supplies. …we can still meet them at the OC and UTPB if they need moral support. We’ve built stronger partnerships with OC and UTPB as well, said Gray.
Currently, Gray said it handles just under 2,000 students.
“These are only the 2020 AVID graduates and then any graduates from the 2020 class can get help as well. Then the 2021 class. Then we add, I think another 1,750 are expected from the class of 2022.”
The post-secondary division is currently Gray and Amy Anderson, who is also the AVID Director for the District.
They also have 15-18 teachers who help with alumni contact and can help with teaching.
The program also has community members who help students in areas they would like to pursue and provide moral support.
“We are still partners with ACCESS. They created the ACCESS College and Career website and now have an app on the phone, ACCESS Life, where they can still connect with college advisors and career experts. We also work with Triumph Mentoring. … Triumph Mentoring is actually a couple (Brandon and Ryan Dominguez) graduated from ECISD and are at UT Austin, but created Triumph Mentoring themselves as a way to give back to ECISD students.So this is also available for any seniors who are interested in it and…any graduate can enroll in Triumph Mentoring as well….It’s Mentoring with fellow college mates. And this is open to any major, any school because they have mentors under their supervision at Baylor and Texas Tech, and then UT Austin as well,” Gray said.
Triumph helps with orientation and they offer live chats via ACCESS where they cover different topics.
“The thing we had a couple of weeks ago was about flexibility and it was just about the classroom. Then there was the topic of communication, the importance of peer-to-peer communication, between you and the professor, things like that.”
She added, “They are more willing to listen to their peers…”.
I noticed by contacting some of the graduates that they are now more willing to join the workforce to help their families than to continue studying.
Some students are also accepted into the college but do not enroll in it.
According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse for the 2020 semester, 47% of ECISD graduates attended some type of college in the fall immediately after high school.
So it’s less than half,” Gray said.
There is now a graduation requirement that students fill out financial aid applications.
“What I hope is that every high school student expects to do that, and if they apply and apply to colleges, colleges will be able to tell them that you qualify for this a lot. There is a chance that you can go to college for free, so I hope you will increase enrollment, in fact, because,” Gray said. Kids can see, “Oh, this is something we can do financially.”
UTPB and OC have different scholarship programs.
Also with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, students can qualify for scholarships to pay tuition fees.
Colleges also offer FAFSA Nights that provide assistance with filling out forms.
“…we’ve worked really well. All the high schools are working with Odessa College and UTPB to get that done, and then the Permian came up in January as well. And I’m sure we’ll have something else,” Gray said, but we’re trying to get as many as we can. FAFSAs, since it is one of the requirements for graduation this year, so I hope we can finish all seniors.
On FAFSA Nights, students can come with their parents and learn together.
“Because if you decide to go to school, it is something that you will have to renew every year. You use the same login information and everything, but the information you enter is from the previous year’s tax year. So go to one of these FAFSA workshops and learn how to do it It can better enable you to do it later when you have to renew it next year,”
Gray said she has seen an increase in peer recommendations to speak with.
“…I’m a first-generation college student too, so I try to look at things through that lens. What did I need when I was old and took my gap year that ended with five years. What would have helped me get into college straight away and finish on time.” “I try to bring that knowledge and character into what I do and then help both our seniors and our alumni,” Gray said.
She said the students were surprised that she was a first-generation college student.
“Because it’s hard to understand that you’re a first-generation college student you can be successful, you can go to school; it can get done. It’s not just all the other people who have money, have support, things like that. And that’s my job and why I love what I do.” So much is that we can give that support to every student. All students can go to college, go for their degree, whatever they want to do after high school. It’s all achievable and we provide this support to remove those barriers that might stand in their way” .
She indicated that you do not have to go to college in Odessa to get support from To and Through.
“We had alumni from class of 2020 going to North Texas and that was just when (coronavirus) started and she just needed masks. So I just sent her some masks. Wherever she is, she’s still an ECISD alumni. I’m still part of Our family and we want to support you.”
From what she found through her own research, Gray said, To and Through and the partnerships they forged with different entities is very rare.
“There aren’t many districts in the United States that track their graduates and support their graduates. So we have to build from the ground up,” Gray said.
She added that they partnered with Odessa College where they offered her break points, which are students who did not enroll in the next semester. They gave her information on ECISD alumni, so she is able to contact the ECISD alumni and find out why they are not registered and connect them with successful trainers at OC.
Gray said they are still building the program, but hope to offer college field trips once COVID is over.
“…A lot of seniors don’t know they have days to ask to go visit colleges. So the plan is to take field trips, like ASU or Texas Tech, where they can go and walk around campus. We’re just waiting until this doesn’t become a problem. anymore,” she said.