College degrees are part of Bright Futures for Park City students | ParkRecord.com

College degrees are part of Bright Futures for Park City students

Latino students from Treasure Mountain Junior High visit the University of Utah in February. A new program put on by the Park City Education Foundation and Park City Community Foundation, called Bright Futures, is hoping to give Latino and at-risk students the tools they need to succeed in college. (Courtesy of the Park City Education Foundation)

Abby McNulty, executive director of the Park City Education Foundation, remembers being astounded when she was introduced to a man who started a program in Los Angeles designed to give at-risk students a better shot at graduating college.

"Those of us who were in the room when he started talking about it thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what an amazing opportunity to be able to do something like that here in Park City,’" she said. "So for the last couple years, we’ve been dreaming of it."

This summer, the dream is set to become a reality. The Park City Education Foundation and the Park City Community Foundation are working together to put on the Bright Futures program for students in the area.

Bright Futures, based on the Los Angeles model called Bright Prospect, is essentially a peer-to-peer mentoring program, McNulty said. Ninth-graders will be recruited into the program this summer, then will meet twice a month during the school year and form groups of three or four students, called crews, to provide additional support. The students will focus on building the social, emotional and self-advocacy skills crucial for success in college.

The crews will last throughout high school. Then, in college, the students will be regrouped into different crews with others who have participated in similar programs. Forming relationships with others who are going through a similar college experience can be the difference between graduating or not for at-risk students, McNulty said.

She added that first-generation collegians and at-risk students have a much lower college graduation rate than their peers.

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"I think it’s a super powerful program, and we have really bright, talented kids who are graduating from Park City High School who are also first-generation college students," she said. "But the odds are stacked against them. So to be able to bring in a program that can change the odds is moving for everyone. We all want to do that."

Katie Wright, executive director of the Park City Community Foundation, was immediately excited when she heard about the program. Bright Futures, she said, can have a deep and lasting effect on students, making it exactly the kind of program the foundation wants to financially support.

"You have such a great coalescing of this proven model that works coming into our community, with really strong partners like the school district and the Education Foundation getting behind it," she said. "All that mixed together made me think we should give this a shot."

McNulty said the goal is to have 20 to 30 students in the program’s first year. Each year after that, a new class of students will join. Those involved are hoping Bright Futures proves to be a life-changing experience for students for years to come.

"On a very personal level, I can’t wait to meet and watch these students progress," McNulty said. "I hope that seven years from now we can attend some (college) graduations. I think that’s going to be one of the most amazing things — as it grows, there will be more and more examples of success, and then those kids can come back and serve as role models."

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