Attention is often focused on how to narrow the racial achievement gap in public schools. The KnowHow2GO Campaign looks to narrow the racial gap in university attendance by showing middle schoolers and high school students teens how to plan for college.
The campaign is focused on students of color as well as youths who would be the first in their family to attend a university.
"There is a myth out there that colleges are literally going to show up at the student's door or send them invitations, and they will magically just go to college without realizing there are actual steps they can take now to prepare for it," said Carolyn Stanek, assistant director of national initiatives for the American Council on Education.
College enrollment across the nation has risen by nearly 21 percent over the last decade, according to a study conducted by the American Council on Education. However, while enrollment rates are rising, minority and lower income student enrollment rates are still increasing at slower rate than others.
The Washington State Board of Education has raised attention to this issue by outlining the Core 24 framework, which hopes to provide students with a "meaningful" high school diploma, equipping them with the knowledge for a post-secondary education.
The campaign, launched in January 2007, is a collaboration between the Lumina Foundation, American Council on Education and the Ad Council. Now in its second year, KnowHow2GO is using powerful, cutting edge ads to help grab the attention of kids in grades 8-10. These ads focus on the four steps necessary for kids to get in college.
"The PSAs have to do a certain amount to break through the clutter of that particular age segment (eighth to tenth grade)." said Stanek. "They are always being bombarded by advertising and we think this campaign is compelling enough to break through that."
The ad campaign, however, is only half of the program's two-prong approach to helping high school students. The second piece involves grassroots organizations, which partner with KnowHow2GO in order to provide the necessary resources.
These partnering organizations are attributed with showing progress "on the ground" to the national campaign. Through their own website and statewide ads, they are looking to attract the attention of college-bound students.
On May 20 at the College Access Summit, the College Success Foundation and NELA kicked off the local KnowHow2GO campaign. In Washington State, these organizations have been sponsored by the national KnowHow2GO office to create local resources.
"We focused creating a state-wide network of college access programs," said Tiffany Jones, head of the KnowHow2Go campaign for NELA. "The interactive website and ads help to drive the students toward us."
By summer's end, the local KnowHow2Go partners hope to have a full network of resources available online for students. These resources will serve two purposes for the community. First, it will allow students to gather information on local resources available to them. The network will also create a place for sharing best practices and increasing communication among educators and tutors in order to provide better resources for students.
"KnowHow2GO targets kids who are under served, low income and first in their families to go to college," Stanek said. "Often they don't have the role models and people who've come before them to help them know how to prepare for college. We're trying to fill that gap."
By making students aware of what they need to do, KnowHow2GO hopes to create greater opportunities for students who may not otherwise be attending college. One main issue is making sure students understand the differences between high school requirements and college admission standards, especially in terms of foreign languages and extra curricular work.
Organizers say the campaign has already shown signs of success, as KnowHow2GO resources are being asked for and used by high school age students.
"We can see that attitudes across the board have shifted and students are more aware of the issue," Stanek said.
The Washington State Board of Education is meeting in Vancouver on July 23 and 24 to discuss the implementation of the Core 24 framework, which will be attended by members of the local KnowHow2Go campaign.