Graduation for All Aims to Pull Students Out of Poverty

A new initiative will begin to pull Doña Ana Community College (DACC) students and their children from the Southern County out of poverty through educational achievement. The initiative is made possible by an $864,853 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

The four-year “Graduation for All” program is designed to help DACC students who are parents of children and earn less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is $40,320 for a household of three or $48,600 for a household of four. The project creates service centers at DACC’s Gadsden and Sunland Park Learning Centers that will bundle support programs to increase student retention and completion of credit and non-credit programs.

Participants should ultimately become eligible for employment with wages above 200 percent of FPL.

“This project is exciting and challenging for our community college,” DACC President Dr. Renay Scott said. “The grant will help us reach many people who otherwise would not have pursued higher education to improve their quality of life.”

The initiative will provide specific services and supports to keep students from dropping out of school. Skills will also be taught to help them succeed in the workplace. “DACC is uniquely qualified to help those seeking necessary skills to advance in the workforce,” Scott said.

For low-income and first-generation degree seekers in southern New Mexico, DACC is the entry point. Many students are from historically under-represented populations. DACC graduates earning certificates and degrees can enter the workforce or transfer to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree.

There are many reasons the “Graduation for All” services are needed in the south county, including a high poverty rate, a high unemployment rate and low educational attainment that creates struggles for adults and their children. Additional barriers include a lack of permanent housing and reduced access to basic amenities.

This project will address these barriers for non-credit learners by improving completion rates for adult education students seeking their high school equivalency degree and helping them transition into college where they can earn a degree or certificates.

“DACC seeks to create a culture of higher education in Southern Doña Ana County that addresses the whole student,” Scott said. “We will focus on education, but also provide instruction and assistance in financial, career and wellness needs that will benefit families.”

Some of the student success services include:

  • Academic counseling
  • Tutoring
  • Mentoring
  • Behavioral health services
  • Access to community providers
  • Food pantries
  • Financial counseling
  • New student orientation, and
  • A semester-long introduction to college course.

Some of the workplace assistance includes:

  • Career exploration
  • Resumé building
  • Mentoring
  • Career readiness workshops
  • Job search strategies
  • Interview coaching, and
  • Work-study programs
  • .