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For immediate release — Oct. 3, 2008

Media advisory: Area news media are invited to attend a news conference announcing the grant on Thursday, Oct. 9, at 1 p.m. in room 100 of the Science Building at Eastfield College, 3737 Motley Drive (at I-30), in Mesquite.

(DALLAS) — Community is key. That’s the Wal-Mart way, and that’s the goal of a new $300,000 grant from the corporate giant’s foundation awarded to Eastfield College, which will use the start-up funds to launch a program for Mesquite and Garland Independent School District high school dropouts. 

Through this new partnership, Eastfield will become the only college in north Texas and only one of three in the state participating in the Gateway to College National Network. The network — a group of education entrepreneurs who are working together to reconnect dropouts to education and future success — currently comprises 18 colleges, representing 12 states and 62 school districts. The group expects the network to include 23 colleges across the country by 2009.

Gateway to College, which is modeled on a solution created by Portland Community College in Oregon, is designed for young adults, ages 16 to 20, who have dropped out of high school or who are at a very high risk of dropping out. The program enables them to complete their high school diploma requirements as they simultaneously earn college credit toward an associate degree or certificate.

That’s where Eastfield comes in. Through its established dual credit programs and partnerships with area school districts, the college can help those high school dropouts build an educational foundation for their future. 

“The Gateway to College grant provides Eastfield College with a wonderful opportunity to enhance our collaboration with Garland and Mesquite ISDs by creating pathways that provide students with ways to create a brighter, more successful future. We are honored to be chosen as one of three community colleges in the nation to receive the grant in order to implement the Gateway to College program this year,” said Dr. Carol Brown, president of Eastfield College. “The grant enables us to support the educational needs of students from this area.”

“The entire staff at Eastfield showed great enthusiasm for Gateway to College. College and school district leaders showed a serious commitment to serve young people who were not successful in high school. We saw evidence of a strong culture of collaboration, and we look forward to working with everyone in the community,” said Laurel Dukehart, executive director of the Gateway to College National Network.

Along with funding from partner school districts, the grant will provide support staff and services for a total of 300 students from Mesquite and Garland ISDs who left high school without a diploma. “Students must meet specific criteria for entrance into the program, and they will be enrolled in dual credit courses in their school district and with Eastfield College until they complete their high school diploma or reach age 21,” said Jenny Matthews, who is coordinating the grant for Eastfield.

In the program, each student receives a detailed, individualized academic plan and ongoing support from a resource specialist who serves as a coach, mentor and advisor. During their first term, the students take classes exclusively with other Gateway to College participants, including a “college survival and success” course that focuses mainly on study habits, time management, test-taking strategies and other techniques for succeeding in college. After the first semester, the students then are mainstreamed into courses with other Eastfield students.

After they graduate, students have an opportunity to continue their higher education careers and earn a college degree. Nationally, Gateway to College graduates earn an average of 46 semester credit hours as well as their high school diploma — which means that students who participate, on average, are more than two-thirds on their way to a college degree when they complete the program.

The Gateway to College National Network is part of the Early College High School Initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Jobs for the Future, an action/research and policy organization that promotes innovation in education and workforce development, serves as the initiative’s coordinating intermediary. The Early College High School Initiative ultimately will open about 250 schools around the country, serving more than 100,000 students annually.

Eastfield College is one of seven individually accredited institutions in the Dallas County Community College District. Located at 3737 Motley Drive in Mesquite, Eastfield enrolls more than 10,200 students and offers credit and continuing education programs.

For more information about Eastfield’s Gateway to College grant, call Jenny Matthews, EFC office of the president, at (972) 860-7207 or visit [Editor's note: As of February 2009, the contact person for this grant is Michelle Taylor, (972) 860-7129.]

Press contact: Ann Hatch