YES Prep and Aldine Independent School District Collaborate to Help Students Realize College Aspirations

Key Takeaway: District-charter collaboration bolsters college preparatory work for economically disadvantaged students.

“Helping us recognize what we need to do to make the path to college easier.” That’s what a partnership between Aldine Independent School District and YES Prep Public Schools means for students like former Eisenhower 9th Grade School student Kayla Kirskey in Houston.

She was describing iAspire, the college-readiness program that’s just one result of the collaboration between the district and the charter management organization (CMO). iAspire is a free four-year elective course offered to entering freshman students at Eisenhower.

“Every YES Prep campus has the same seminar curriculum for students from 9th to 12th grade,” said Ellen Winstead, the director of strategic initiatives at YES Prep Public Schools. “The goal of the program is to prepare the students mentally for college as well as logistically prepare for the SAT or ACT.”

Teachers at both YES Prep and Aldine ISD are trained to become course leaders on professional development.

“You will see Aldine sitting alongside all the YES Prep teachers getting the same professional development [training] as the YES Prep teachers,” said Winstead.

“The freshman seminar is helping make it easier for juniors and seniors,” said Sarah Straub, the freshman seminar instructor.

Students learn how to write resumes, personal statements, and request letters of recommendations. They learn how to go through the college application process and participate in SAT and ACT prep. Straub says there aren’t any quizzes or tests in the iAspire seminar, but they do have to build a portfolio.

“It gets easier and easier [for the student] each year,” said Straub.

“You really see how they’re building the whole student through that way of thinking,” said Dr. Wanda Bamberg, the superintendent of Aldine ISD. “It really helps them as a high school student while they’re getting ready to apply for college.”

Bamberg said her district has done college preparatory programs before, but not to the same thorough and coordinated effort as they have with YES Prep. The program also includes exposing economically-disadvantaged students to things they wouldn’t have normally experienced, like college tours and special trips to talk with college advisors and students.

“Instead of trying to create it ourselves, why not use a model that’s already out there and successful?” said Bamberg.

Regan Traister, a YES Prep Hoffman Middle School teacher, said she believes their students are exposed to new ideas through the iAspire program and get the opportunity to build relationships with their teachers.

“These kids are getting opportunities that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise just because of their socio-economic status,” said Traister.

“We do spring trips and fall trips, [where we] talk with students, talk with advisers, different kinds of counselors,” said Shina Ojo, a former YES Prep Brays Oaks student. “We know what it’s going to be like when we get there.”

Learn more about Aldine ISD and YES Prep’s district-charter collaboration by viewing a case study here by the National Charter School Resource Center. To learn more about Aldine ISD, visit their website here. To learn more about YES Prep Public Schools, visit their website here.

All Images Credited to Aldine Independent School District.