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Students, faculty, staff help minority youth chart path to college

Monday, November 24, 2014

LAWRENCE — Twenty-eight students from Lawrence, Kansas City and the South Dakota Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe participated in a program for racial and ethnic minority youth earlier this month at the University of Kansas. The LEAD UP (Leadership, Education, Adolescent Development for Unlimited Possibilities and Potential): Youth Achievement Program event included coaching and a panel discussion by KU students and life skills, academic success and financial planning workshops conducted by KU faculty and staff.

“LEAD UP participants learn how to do short- and long-term goal-setting, action-planning and identify resources to build a solid foundation for success in young adulthood,” said faculty coordinator Jomella Watson-Thompson, assistant professor of applied behavioral science and associate director of the KU Work Group for Community Health and Development.

The program includes biannual visits to KU and other LEAD UP college network campuses and web-based monthly coaching by college students and quarterly workshops for youth and their parents or caregivers. 

Students in eighth through 12th grades can apply to participate in the program and can remain in the program through their freshman year of college.

The KU undergraduate student coordinators, seniors Jordyn Gunville and Alexandria Buckley, applied behavioral science, acted as panelists and “college connection” coaches.

Tahnee Shaving, 16, an eleventh-grader at Cheyenne Eagle Butte School in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, has targeted KU as her college choice. 

“I’m glad I applied for LEAD UP because it really opened up my eyes to what opportunities are out there, and that if you really set your mind to something you can achieve it,” she said.

In addition to Watson-Thompson, several other KU partners support the program: Blane Harding, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs; Calvin McConnell, Office of Admissions; Mulu Negash and Kellee Harris, KU Achievement & Assessment Institute, McNair Scholars Program; Leticia Gradington, Student Money Management Services, Student Affairs; Willie Elliott III, professor of social welfare, with the Assets and Education Initiative and the KU Work Group. 

The LEAD UP program also partners with community and faith-based organizations in the Kansas City metro area including Made-Men Inc. and the Tabernacle Community Development Center Inc., as well as the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Title 1 Program in South Dakota.