Thanks to the ongoing efforts of Geneva 2020 partners and supporters working together to increase graduation rates, improve literacy and boost college readiness for students in Geneva City Schools, the local initiative has continued its significant progress this fall across a number of fronts.
Among the recent successes are the continued engagement of Hobart and William Smith community members in Geneva schools, the awarding of a grant from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, national recognition from the White House, the chartering of the Geneva Education Foundation and the welcoming of a new Geneva 2020 volunteer coordinator. In recent months, the Colleges have continued its support of Geneva 2020, using resources, connections and advancing partnerships to further the initiative, says Katie Flowers, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Services Learning.
“Geneva 2020 is continuing to align across areas,” Flowers says. “It’s giving us the shared language and shared vision of where we are now and where we need to go.”
Rooted in the collective impact model, Geneva 2020 works to ensure that all students in the community have the skills necessary to graduate from high school and to effectively pursue college. The alignment of initiatives already has helped move the high school graduation rate from 70 percent in 2010 to 82 percent in 2013, and to increase the number of local high school students entering college from 74 percent in 2009 to 76 percent in 2013.
“It behooves all of us to help our children in the community by investing in their wellbeing,” Flowers says.
Taking an active leadership role with Geneva 2020, Jennifer Morris, retired director of the region’s four-county Pioneer Library System, was recently named volunteer coordinator of the initiative. Acting as the liaison between Geneva teachers and the community, Morris has been working to advance local partnerships and help connect teachers to local resources.
Recently, Morris worked with Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Woodworth, a Geneva native, to set up a meeting with high school students to enrich their knowledge of theatre and Shakespeare. Morris helped Finger Lakes Community College set up classroom visits as well.
“Jen’s willingness to step forward as the Geneva 2020 volunteer coordinator has been instrumental,” Flowers says. “She will help to facilitate the connections between available resources in the community and the opportunities that have been identified by teachers to enhance Geneva school successes. With Jen’s guidance, we will be able to continue to advance Geneva 2020’s impact.”
As the fall semester got underway, HWS continued its active involvement with Geneva 2020.
In October, for example, the Colleges hosted the fourth annual sixth-grade campus visit with students from Geneva Middle School. Programs for visiting students included sessions hosted by the Office of Financial Aid, the Office of Admissions, and the Finger Lakes Institute.
In addition, Bernard Abagali ’15 and Megan Soule ’15 collaborated with Geneva City Schools Public Information Office Heather Swanson to create a Geneva High School 125th Commencement video. The video project, originating from the school district, turned into a community-based research project for academic credit, one of many examples that students have carried out in recent years. Abagali and Soule worked on the project under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer.
Recently, the Colleges’ work with Geneva 2020 also received national attention.
This December, President Mark D. Gearan was invited by The White House to discuss the success of Geneva 2020 with other national leaders in higher education in Washington, D.C., for the White House College Opportunity Day of Action, a summit focusing on the efforts to expand college access for underserved and low-income students. Noted in the summit application was a plan initiated by Jennifer Morris that engages Geneva 2020 partner Cornell Cooperative Extension regarding STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives, including an expanded job shadowing program and a STEM careers in Geneva video that has been presented to local students.
In addition to the summit, HWS was recognized nationally this December as one of only four institutions named as finalists for the President’s Award for Education Community Service in a recent Honor Roll of nearly 800 colleges and universities considered for the prestigious recognition. Geneva 2020 has been an integral part of the service opportunities taking place at the Colleges.