Financial help to close the achievement gap in Dane County

Tuesday, January 19, 2015 --- 5:30 p.m.

Madison, Wis. --- More academic support will now be available to students of color and those from low-income families. That's thanks to some financial support from two organizations.

Tuesday, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County announced they'll be receiving a $2.3 million dollar over the next three years from the Burke Foundation and a $1 million over five years from the New American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, Inc.

The money will go to support academic programs that help ensure students are college-ready, but also graduate at the same rate as white students.

The Wisconsin Hope Lab has been tracking the progress of these academic programs. It found there is great success among low income-students, African American students, and male students of color. Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab has been heading up the study. She said, "AVID/TOPS is increasing the rate of college attendance for it's students that participate. 73% of AVID/TOPS students on average are attending college, compared to 62% of comparable students who are not participating in the AVID/TOPS program."

The proof is in more than just the numbers and statistics. As many students are still contemplating their futures, Ashanti Nichols seems to have hers all figured out. She credits the help of programs like College Club for her success.

The Verona Area High School Senior said, "College Club has given me a great support system. Somewhere I can go if I needed help or I could go to feel like I'm welcome."

Nichols has pulled her GPA up from a 2.7 to a 3.93. She's currently applying to colleges with the hopes of become a veterinarian and a pastry chef.

Nichols wasn't the only student honored on Tuesday at the Boys and Girls Club. Also recognized for her academic achievements was Norma Samaniego. She's a student at West High School in Madison. She boosted her GPA from 2.86 to a 3.17.

Organizers of these academic programs say Nichols and Samaniego are just two of 900 students participating in the college-prep programs.