OUR VIEW: Eastern program promising
News of declining enrollment at Eastern Oregon University is alarming not just for the school but for the community to which it is inextricably bound.
EOU makes La Grande a more vibrant community and a regional center. Arguably, the college is the heartbeat of La Grande.
That’s why news about Academic Momentum is encouraging. The program, part of Eastern Promise, is directed toward students throughout Eastern Oregon, starting in the fifth grade. At last count, more than 3,500 students are participating in Academic Momentum. The program has reached into nearly every school district in the region.
Access to higher education is important. Equally necessary is creating a mindset that pursuing education past high school is important, whether that is college or vocational training, and showing students a clear path to achieve their goals.
Academic Momentum is designed to show that path. The program gives students a blueprint that if followed could ultimately help them unlock their talents and expand their career opportunities.
What’s good about Academic Momentum is that it’s a long-term solution, not a quick fix. Beginning in the fifth grade, students can begin shaping a 10-year Academic Momentum Personal Development Plan. Students begin thinking about their education in its entirety, beyond high school, and possible careers they might want to pursue.
Academic Momentum does not lock students into an education and career path. It just shows them a clear route to achieving their academic goals and helps them set their sights higher than they might otherwise.
The program is more than just pie in the sky. Fifth graders make a field trip to EOU to get a feel for postsecondary education. Seventh graders visit a partner college to learn about other future academic options.
Meanwhile, as students reach middle school, they and their parents get opportunities to become familiar with how to apply for colleges and for financial aid. That way, when the time comes to do such things, they will be more comfortable with and not intimidated by the process.
Academic Momentum also shows families how to overcome the hurdles thrown up by poverty, which is the real root of the dropout problem, at any level of school. Certainly, children growing up in poverty have a tougher path. The Academic Momentum program is trying to work with all students, rich or poor, National Honor Society or not, to show pathways toward education beyond high school.
This article originally appeared in "The Observer" and is reprinted here with permission.