Friday, March 12, 2010

Launch of the Washington State College Access Network (WCAN)

This past Tuesday, the Washington State College Access Network (WCAN) was launched. Over 280 college access practitioners across the state and from other regions such as California, Idaho, and Arizona were in attendance. Most would agree that the launch was a success. WCAN is part of the National College Access Network (NCAN), an organization that grew out of the informal networking of people who were involved in the burgeoning field of college access. There are several varieties of college access programs, but all spend their resources, both financial and human, to help motivated, academically capable, low-income young people enroll in and graduate from college. In addition to Washington State, there are 15 states that have their own network.

WCAN strives to improve access to and preparation for higher education through a network of organizations, agencies, and institutions that collaborate to promote the use of best practices, leverage training, and support public policies ensuring the success of each student. Lee Lambert is the director of the Washington College Access Network and a member of College Success Foundation. He should be commended for organizing such a well attended and enthusiastic conference.

As the program manager for the Seattle College Access Network (SCAN), it was great to see many of the providers working together in a larger network and to see the relationships being forged to advance the cause of College Access.

Throughout the day, sessions focused on student access, the importance and impact of data, developing networks to build capacity, and policy and advocacy. However the highlight of the day was the student panelists. During lunch, a group of students and graduates from colleges throughout Washington State spoke about the challenges and supports they encountered in trying to go to college. A few of the young women were brought to tears as they explained the enormous challenges they face—and still face—in getting into college and staying there. Challenges such as poverty, gang violence, and other harsh circumstances make it tough for these students, but some, such as these fantastic students, have persevered and ultimately thrived. However, all too often these students are the exception and not the norm.

We as college access practitioners must continue to come together in venues like this to give all children the opportunity to go to college.

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