January 16, 2007
Summit Seeks to Expand Successful Program for Under-Represented College Students
More than 50 leaders from around the state will gather at Whitworth College Jan. 18 to study the innovative Act Six Leadership and Scholarship program, which promotes college access for first-generation, urban students and has been piloted at Whitworth with remarkable success.
Through a partnership with the Northwest Leadership Foundation, 41 mostly low-income, under-represented students from inner-city Tacoma have enrolled at Whitworth over the past four years; 40 students remain and every member of the first cadre is preparing to graduate this May. Act Six affiliates have been launched at George Fox University, outside Portland, Ore., and at Crichton College, in Memphis, Tenn., and others are in planning stages. But officials from 13 colleges and universities and more than a dozen businesses, foundations and non-profit organizations are attending Thursday's summit – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Whitworth's Hixson Union Building – to study ways to expand the program in Washington state.
"The Act Six program has brought to Whitworth an extraordinary group of students who have enriched our campus through their leadership and service, even as we have taught and mentored them," says Whitworth President Bill Robinson. "The program requires big investments, but it also delivers big rewards. So, it would be irresponsible and morally unacceptable if we didn't explore ways to expand Act Six to other schools."
Tim Herron, founder and national director of Act Six (www.actsix.org) organized the summit in response to inquiries from other Washington colleges and universities. The day will begin with an overview of Act Six's innovative model for recruiting, training and supporting student scholars, as well as the presentation of a proposal for expanding the program through additional recruiting and training centers, and new partnerships with independent four-year colleges and community colleges. The proposed expansion ultimately could add more than 100 new students a year, Herron says.
In addition, the summit will include panel discussions with current Act Six scholars at Whitworth, and with faculty and administrators who work closely with the program; a presentation on Act Six costs and funding options; and a discussion of the next steps for possible expansion.
"The summit provides an excellent opportunity to introduce the Act Six model and participants to a larger group of people committed to educating students from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds," Herron says. "We are excited by the potential of a state-wide collaborative effort that brings together faith-based universities, community colleges and urban ministries to empower students and create lasting change on our campuses and in our urban communities."
Herron, formerly a math teacher in inner-city Tacoma, developed Act Six after seeing many of his most promising students fail to complete college. He modeled the program after a similar initiative developed nearly 20 years ago by the Posse Foundation to train and send students in groups to elite colleges. Herron has emphasized equipping Act Six scholars to be agents of change in college and in their home communities.
The first cadre of 10 Act Six scholars was selected in 2002. The scholars completed a year of training and team-building before enrolling at Whitworth in the fall of 2003. Members of the cadre meet regularly with one another and with their faculty advisors.
The first Whitworth cadre has now been followed by three more cadres; all together, the Act Six scholars represent six continents and speak 13 native languages. More than 67 percent are first-generation college students and 79 percent are from low-income families. The program's 97 percent retention rate and the anticipated 100 percent four-year graduation rate for the first cadre significantly exceed national averages.
Furthermore, Act Six scholars have greatly enriched Whitworth's campus with their perspectives, involvement and leadership. Senior Fa'ana Fanene, of cadre one, was elected president of the Associated Students of Whitworth College for the current academic year.
"Our scholars are having a profound impact through their leadership on campus, and many of those graduating this spring are planning to return to Tacoma to invest in their communities," Herron says. "This is what we envisioned when we launched Act Six and what we hope can be replicated around the state."
The Northwest Leadership Foundation is a faith-based non-profit headquartered in Tacoma, Wash. Since 1989, the foundation has worked to encourage, strengthen and develop leadership for the spiritual and social renewal of the city.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college, which has an enrollment of more than 2,500 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Tim Herron, Act Six national director, (253) 272-0771 ext.15 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Esther Louie, assistant dean for intercultural student affairs, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4572 or email@example.com.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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