College Prep Academy to expand retention program, staffing

· 3 min read

College Prep Academy to expand retention program, staffing

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s weeklong, statewide celebration of its 150th anniversary opened Feb. 11.

Support from the Peter Kiewit Foundation is fueling growth of the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy and strengthening its focus on student retention.

Launched in 2006 and funded primarily through grants and charitable contributions, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln program helps first-generation and low-income high school students achieve academic success and attend college.

“As a land-grant institution, UNL is committed to preparing first-generation, low-income students with the tools to achieve personal and professional excellence. NCPA is a testament of this commitment,” said Amber Williams, assistant vice chancellor for academic services and enrollment management. “The academy is uniquely positioned, allowing program staff to leverage their understanding of admissions and student success to prepare scholars to thrive on campus.

“NCPA’s proven model has changed the lives of its participants.”

Beginning in the eighth grade, students are selected to enroll in the academy. Upon completion of the pre-secondary component of the program at high school graduation, the academy provides guaranteed financial assistance and access to counseling, academy support and personal development opportunities through students’ post-secondary careers.

In the last six years, every academy graduate has gone on to attend college. The scholars average a 90 percent freshman-to-sophomore retention rate and the most recent graduating class boasted an 85 percent five-year graduation rate.

In 2017, with support from the Sherwood Foundation and campus leaders, including Chancellor Ronnie Green, the academy expanded into Winnebago and Omaha South Magnet schools. The move doubled the number of participating schools, which started with Omaha North Magnet and Grand Island Senior high schools.

Williams said the expansion is expected to grow the academy by more than 130 percent in less than two years.

To ensure success of each college scholar, each student is provided an individualized retention plan through the academy’s Trenchard Foundation Institute of Excellence. Staff work one-on-one with scholars to develop the plans each semester throughout college.

“Our NCPA retention plan is simple — every student matters,” said Moi Padilla, director of the academy.

To maintain academy success in retention and graduation rates for the increased number of scholars, the Peter Kiewit Foundation is providing $300,000 for three years of expanded programming built on a personalized, strengths and talent-based perspective.

“Support from influential organizations like the Peter Kiewit Foundation and other charitable organizations has been and continue to be key to the continued success of the academy and its students,” Williams said.

The funding will allow NCPA to:

  • Incorporate Gallup’s Clifton Strengths assessments to help participants better understand and utilize their individual skills.

  • Develop a week-long extended orientation for first-year academy scholars prior to the start of the academic year.

  • Develop a new peer coaching program and professional development.

  • Create a Pathways Program to provide junior and senior academy students a better understanding of careers, global engagement or service learning.

  • Add a full-time retention coordinator along with a graduate assistant.

“This is a program that closes the gap between recruitment and retention of students from low-income families and first-generation students,” Padilla said. “The additional support from the Peter Kiewit Foundation will help NCPA continue to help students build their identities, academic engagement, and create supportive social networks. We’re thrilled with the opportunity to continue to change the game in retention."

Learn more about the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy.