Since 2005, the ERDA College Access Program has helped hundreds of low-income families prepare for and enroll in college. Most of the students that ERDA works with come from New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments in western Queens (Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Woodside, and Astoria) - and the vast majority of students in our program are the first in their families to attend college. As part of ERDA's overarching mission to provide residents of public housing with the tools and resources they need to achieve self-sufficiency and economic mobility, we realize that making college an expectation is a crucial component. Therefore, as our students move through the pipeline from high school to college, the College Access Program aims to achieve the following:
Each year, the ERDA College Access Program serves 50 students in grades eleven and twelve on a first-come, first-served basis. Students receive a Kaplan SAT course, college exploration trips and workshops, college application assistance, and financial aid counseling. Our program boasts a three pronged approach to preparing students for college: academic achievement, building "professional competencies" (e.g. time management, negotiating the systems and informational channels during the application process, and financing/scholarships); and strengthening personal capabilities.
Student M joined the ERDA College Access Program as a high school junior. By working with an ERDA SAT tutor, she was able to improve her score by over 200 points, earning a 1900 on the May 2010 SAT exam. Student M already boasted a 97% GPA, near perfect school attendance, and over 150 community service hours. With such a strong academic profile, she was poised for success in the college admissions process. But Student M feared writing the essay. She, like so many other students, had difficulty knowing what to write about and where to begin. As a result of this observation, ERDA College Access Counselors led a special summer essay writing clinic. However, counselors did not use traditional essay writing strategies.
Instead, students were assigned to groups and charged with the task of creating a podcast that thematically linked their lives together. In Student M's group titled production, "What Home Means to Us", she discussed feeling connected to her late father whenever she visits his native country. Through this process, Student M realized that she wanted to write an essay about her father. Over the next few months, Student M wrote a compelling essay about the strong presence her father, now gone for over 10 years, had in her life throughout her adolescent years. This essay, along with her strong application, earned her a spot in the prestigious Macaulay Honors Program at Baruch College where she currently studies business.