By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life. ~Plato
Partnership for the Future (PFF) is creating leaders, entrepreneurs, businessmen, inventors, strategists, and our next generation, by encouraging them to pursue their dreams, and lifting them up to reach the stars. Partnership for the Future is Greater Richmond’s ‘best kept secret’.
Meet Sonia. This spring, she’ll graduate from high school. She’s bubbly, but poised, as she describes her plan: she’ll study psychology, with a concentration in adolescent psychology. She’ll earn a Ph.D. She’ll open an agency to help troubled kids. She explains that her PFF mentor and internship helped her figure out exactly who she is and what she’s capable of.
“Before, I didn’t even know that psychology was a career option for me.” She adds, “Without Partnership for the Future, I would have been on a different track, in a different world.”
There are many high school students from low-income families in the Richmond, Virginia area who are bright, driven, and excel in school. But, for most of them, when it comes to preparing for college and achieving their potential, their environment doesn’t have the resources to nourish their potential. It lacks the tools, guidance, and social and academic experiences that are a “given” for those who grow up in a more affluent setting.
Eighteen years ago, a group of business people saw a way to offset the deficiencies that could hold back these exceptional students. They called their vision Partnership for the Future. The organization which began in 1994, through its donors, mentors, volunteers, and staff, helps gifted children make the most of their strengths while bridging the gaps that hold them back. For almost two decades, this passionate, compassionate team has been helping high-performing, low-income students achieve their potential. PFF helps in a way that is direct, immediate, and profound.
The mission of Partnership for the Future is to provide high-potential high school students from challenging circumstances in the metro-Richmond area with the tools and experiences necessary to attain a college degree.
Filling the Gap, and Serving the People
While it may be possible for a child to survive a challenging environment, it’s not possible to grow and thrive without the resources that encourage and develop the child’s potential. For low-income and first-generation college students, the lack of information and support may be as important a barrier to enrolling in college as academic qualifications and financial resource. As a result, these students often fail to take the steps necessary to enroll in college and often conduct quite limited college searches.
Young people such as Sonia and her peers, who work hard and dream big, still cannot make up for everything that’s missing: the support to help them select and apply to colleges that match their talents, and the experiences that enable them to play on the same field as their college-bound peers.
Our Focus: What we do, how we do it, and how we’re unique
Partnership for the Future’s mission is to provide high-potential high school students from challenging circumstances in the metro-Richmond area with the tools and experiences necessary to attain a college degree.
The rigorous PFF selection process begins in the guidance counselor’s office. PFF works directly with school counselors to identify candidates during their ninth-grade year. It is an application process for students who maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average (GPA). Since PFF caters to those high-potential students who have the most need, family income plays a factor. Most of the students come from family incomes of $40,000 and below. Students are required to write two short essays and go through an interview process. PFF is able to select about 35 to 40 students to join PFF. They remain in the program until they matriculate to college. PFF looks for students who demonstrate a commitment to academic excellence and an eagerness to work hard to earn lifelong rewards. Candidates complete an application and a series of interviews. The admission process is competitive and only one-third of the students who apply are able to qualify for the limited number of spaces. Once accepted, they commit to the program for three years. For many of these kids, this is their first, last, and only chance to find the path that can support their promise.
Students grow stronger academically, with the help of PFF’s programs. Students participate in year-round sessions to help them explore career options and opportunities for personal development. They participate in PFF’s college preparation series. The series includes private SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) prep classes and courses that help them prepare for the rigors of college, ranging from the demands of studying to developing critical thinking abilities.
With PFF’s guidance, students select and apply to schools that match their exceptional potential. Students attend college fairs, and PFF staff and mentors guide them in the complex process of preparing college applications and entrance essays. Students also receive help navigating the financial aid process, including applying for scholarships and matching grants.
“PFF is a great outlet for metro-Richmond minority students who are heavily influenced by an environment that may not be able to enhance their lives academically or professionally,” comments Whitney Brooks, Partnership for the Future’s office manager, and a former student and graduate of PFF.
PFF helps students gain practical experience and life experience. Many PFF students have never traveled to another city, eaten lunch in a restaurant, or conversed with a business owner or company CEO. And, though the experiences they do have make their achievements even more remarkable, those experiences don’t translate.
During the first summer, students participate in the PFF Institute. The Institute provides them with basic employment skills, including certification training in Microsoft Office. In addition, they participate in sessions designed to broaden their awareness about general business topics, as well as the role of teamwork and community service in the professional environment.
In the program’s second summer, PFF students participate in paid internships designed to help them develop skills, gain new experiences, and discover new horizons. They work Monday through Thursday and spend Fridays in PFF-coordinated training. This eight-hour day of training includes presentations from guest speakers, community service projects, interactive workshops for self-development, such as business and social etiquette, and visits to college campuses.
“It gave me a leg up. I was working at a corporation from nine-to-five. I would wake up and head to work. I was only 16 at the time!”
- PFF student
In the third summer, students continue their internship with their previous employer, as well as begin the college selection process. College is the sole focus of the fourth summer, when they prepare for the final transition. With support from PFF staff, students work on applications and visit colleges. They participate in community service projects and explore issues such as time management to ease the transition into college and community.
First We Change Lives. Then We Change the Future.
- SAT/ACTPreparatory Programs
- Cultural Capital Sessions
- VA Tech Overnight College Visit
- James Madison Overnight College Visit
- One-on-One mentoring with Program Coordinators
- Randolph-Macon College Dorm Living
- Workshops on Personal Development, Dressing Professionally, Money Management, Staying Fit, Effective Communication
- Volunteer Experience
- Resume Building
- Dining Etiquette at the Jefferson Hotel
- Precious Pearls: This program focuses on outward appearance and teaches young ladies to appreciate and respect themselves. Female role models from the community present female students with their first set of authentic pearls.
- Tied to Greatness: This program also focuses on outward appearance, but for the gentleman, also teaching to appreciate and respect themselves. Male role models from the community present and teach the students how to tie a tie.
- Preparing College Admissions Essay
- A Different World Series: On-to-College
- College Prep (Dorms, Roommates, Dorm Diseases, Classes, Registration, Finances, Study Habits)
The Benefit: The results we achieve
PFF helps students achieve the potential they worked so hard to develop. The college that a young person selects and attends can shape the future adult’s economic success. This can make an even bigger difference for low-income minorities.
PFF students are prepared to succeed in school. On average, PFF students increase their SAT scores by more than 203 points. Of those who are selected for the PFF program, 84% complete the program, and 99% of those who complete the program enter a four-year college or university. On average, of each graduating class, 86% are accepted by one of their top three choices of schools.
The Class of 2012 (a total of 15 students) earned over $2.4 million in scholarship funds and they all matriculated to college. One of the fifteen students was valedictorian of his school. For the Class of 2011, 4 out of 8 of Richmond’s valedictorians were PFF students and one was selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar.
“My PFF mentor was aggressive in encouraging me to apply to the best schools. I would have thought about applying to them, but wouldn’t have looked into it without his encouragement.”
- PFF student
They’re prepared to succeed in work. Students gain practical experience and develop skills through training, direct exposure to senior executives, and as a working member of a professional team. They follow schedules, meet deadlines, and deliver work. Upon completing the internship, each student receives a full evaluation from the business sponsor regarding teamwork, communication, dependability, effort, and other areas that shape personal performance. In addition to developing skills, students learn the value of building relationships and grow to understand the difference between social relationships and business relationships. After graduating, many students return to Richmond to build their careers, and our community.
Along with growth that can be measured through grades, evaluations, certifications, and activities, PFF students grow in ways that aren’t as concrete to measure, but may have a bigger effect on the world we share. For the first time, these students see what is possible and know that it is within their power to achieve it.
Call to Action: why you should help & why we need your help
Regardless of the child’s potential, the window of time to help that child is limited. In recent years, the number of students enrolled in the tenth grade in the Richmond Public School system has averaged about 1,500 each year. (The summer preceding the tenth grade is the first year students participate in the Partnership program.) And for that same period, PFF has helped an average of 124 students each year. We estimate that at least 46% more, each year, could benefit from the program, if we had the resources. You can help.
Recruitment begins for the program every February. Partnership for the Future is looking for community support from the business sector to assist with internship placement for the selected students.
Your support goes to work for students today.
$70 enables one student to attend the Dining Etiquette session.
$170 enables one student to participate in the PFF Institute.
$250 provides for one student’s SAT or ACT preparation class.
$400 enables one student to attend the Spring Break College Tours and Cultural Enrichment Trip (three-day trip).
$7,200 provides for a student’s internship and scholarship match for two summers.
$7,500 provides for one student’s participation in the programming workshops, mentoring, and training for three years.
$14,700 provides for one student’s full participation in the program, which includes a scholarship match and two-year internship.
Your support shapes the future for students tomorrow.
Your contribution will help us acquire a permanent space that’s more accessible to the students we serve.
Your support will help us expand programs and increase staff, so that we can serve more students.
By helping us achieve financial stability, you ensure the program remains strong and supportive for every child who enters today, and years from now.
For more information, on how to get involved with Partnership for the Future, please visit: www.partnershipforthefuture.org or call 804-967-2559.