The college readiness can be tricky for all students. We know that some of the challenges experienced by students exist because of a disconnect between K12 and higher education systems. Studies show that students find themselves struggling with understanding new academic expectations, how to finance college, and understanding how university systems are governed. These challenges are exacerbated when students have marginalized identities, are coming from under resourced school systems, and when they have little or no family experience with attending college. The work of the College Readiness Outreach Program and the Center for Student Diversity at Towson University is designed to specifically help students from Baltimore City overcome some of those challenges.

The College Readiness Outreach Program (CROP) connects 9th graders from Baltimore City Public Schools high schools with TU students who serve as mentors. The program also provides a series of college readiness workshops. Local underrepresented students are provided opportunities through CROP to build a solid plan around how to matriculate successfully through high school and then into college. TU college students volunteer to facilitate individual or group sessions, sharing their experiences, encouraging academic persistence, and helping students rethink what success means for them.

Similarly, the African American Student Development Program (AASD) is an integral part of the university’s commitment to serving underrepresented and marginalized populations. The AASD’s mission is to support, promote, and enhance the academic, social, and personal development of students of African descent and heritage within a welcoming nurturing environment. Ultimately, the primary goal of AASD is to aid in the recruitment, retention, and development of students of African and African American descent and heritage and to assist TU in creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment across campus.

On Wednesday, March 27, both CROP and AASD hosted about 100 Baltimore City middle and high school students on campus—predominately of African and African American descent. These students came from Reginald F. Lewis High School of Business and Law (about 40 students) and Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson Charter School (about 60 students). The high school students were accompanied by high school teachers and advisors and then placed into groups with about 20 Towson University mentors from the CROP program and Project S.I.S. (Sisters Integrating Success).

“Our trip to Towson University was an incredible opportunity for our scholars. We were able to bring the entire 8th grade for a three hour tour, Q&A, and luncheon. The young ladies involved with arranging the visit allowed my scholars to select a collection of majors in which they are interested and then travel with that group so that they could target those buildings. Throughout the tour, our hosts engaged with the scholars and answered all of their questions. My favorite part of the day was the Q&A session during which TU students gave great advice, discussed their experiences, and connected with our girls. In so many cases, I could hear examples of how the TU young ladies were sharing parts of themselves that are true for our scholars as well. Following the Q&A, we all went to the dining hall for lunch. The scholars LOVED it.”

—Amanda Eby, Lille Mae teach and Towson University alum

Creating a pipeline of success for Baltimore City students means that we cultivate ongoing relationships with the students, before and once they arrive at TU. That happens through programs like our Sleeping Bag Weekend, the College Bound Completion Program, our Students Achieving Goals through Education (SAGE) peer mentoring program and our yearlong programming calendar through the AASD program. We continue to see the impact of this work at Towson University through increased African American student enrollment and retention.

Creating a pipeline of success for Baltimore city students to us means finding ways through programming to make the college going process less tricky for students with marginalized identities from Baltimore City.

About the Authors

India Leach

India Leach

India Leach, MA is the coordinator of outreach and retention within Student Success Programs at Towson University where she works to drive results around college access and retention. Her role includes developing the College Readiness Outreach Program (C.R.O.P.), which takes students from Towson into Baltimore City Schools to work with ninth graders. On Towson’s campus, India serves as an advisor to several student organizations as well as a member of several committees who support diversity and inclusion work on campus. India Leach is a student‐focused worker who prides herself on connecting and building relationships with students because she once was in their shoes.

Anee Korme

Anee Korme

Anee Korme, MA, MBA currently serves as associate director for Student Diversity and Development in the Center for Student Diversity at Towson University. In this role she works to create a strategic plan to guide the African American Student Development Program serving over 4000 undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally she develops and presents workshops to help build cultural competency across campus and works to develop strategic partnerships with campus and greater Baltimore community partners.  She has also serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching courses focusing on diversity and inclusion and as a private consultant helping organizations reach their diversity goals. On Towson’s campus Anee currently serves on the BTU Council, College of Fine Arts and Communications-CoLAB Committee, and the Academic Intergroup Dialogue Committee.