The mission of the Office of Early Academic Outreach (EAO) at the University of Arizona is to increase the number of low-income, underrepresented, and first-generation college-bound students who aspire to attend and are eligible to enter a university degree program.
EAO has worked to develop a Theory of Change, or guiding document, for the office's strategic efforts to increase college access to a four-year degree for traditionally underrepresented students in the State of Arizona. In particular, five strategies for change are identified that can help students to aspire, plan, and eventually apply to college. These strategies include:
Working Directly with Students - Students need to understand that the academic preparation for college is based in coursework that they have been taking since elementary school - Math, English, Science, Social Science, Foreign Language and Fine Arts. Beyond academics, student are encouraged to be involved, to take on leadership opportunities, and to give back to their communities for a well-rounded experience. Finally, by explaining federal financial aid and scholarships, students begin to understand the resources that can help them to finance their college education.
Engaging Families - Families play a critical role in a child's decision to apply to college and where they will attend. By building upon the funds of knowledge that families already have, college access professionals can provide college knowledge to families so that they can further support their students college aspirations.
Partnering with the K-12 System - Educators, counselors and administrators all have the potential of being college advocates. College-going cultures exist in each school and community, and there is an opportunity to build upon what already exists by providing actionable strategies that encourage students toward understanding their postsecondary educational options.
Fostering Personal Discovery and Career Aspirations - When students are given the opportunity to discover their own strengths and areas of challenge, they can begin to explore future majors and careers that excite them. Once they are able to see the "light at the end of the tunnel," students begin to understand and commit to preparing for college.
Creating College-Bound Peer Groups - College outreach is at its best when students, or parents, work with one another to promote a college-going culture. With a little information and support from educators, messaging from fellow students and parents can go a long way in exciting peers about the steps toward a college degree.
Through the above five Strategies for Change, EAO hopes to have an impact on advancing both toward the office's mission and The University of Arizona's vision for Inclusive Excellence, the relentless pursuit of excellence through diversity.
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