The Valdosta Daily Times
Faculty at Valdosta State University’s College of Education found statistics that alarmed them regarding the large number of students who qualified for free or reduced lunches based on U.S. poverty guidelines and the number of students who drop out and fail to graduate, particularly in the black community.
A program was developed to intervene with students at an early age and place them in a learning environment designed to encourage success. With the cooperation of the Valdosta City School system, the Valdosta Early College Academy, or VECA, came to fruition. Students in the fifth grade who apply and meet the criteria are selected for the program, which not only helps them through high school but into college as well.
By identifying the students most at risk of dropping out and not graduating from high school, typically from low-income households, the program can not only intercede in improving the graduation rate but also help to stop the cycle of poverty and other social issues which are generally to blame.
Education leads to more opportunities, which in turn leads to higher incomes and fewer social problems.
The students at VECA have demonstrated significant improvements in test scores and attendance, and are progressing well in the curriculum. Small classes, individual attention and the focus on learning, in addition to an environment that recognizes their potential and encourages them to succeed, have combined to create a winning combination for students.
In recognition of their success with this program, VSU and the VECA program recently won the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award. It’s the second win for VSU, now the only university to have received the award twice. Pres. McKinney will receive the award Oct. 22 at a conference.
Kudos to VSU and Valdosta city schools for having the foresight to develop the VECA program, whose successes should inspire other collaborative educational efforts which can only benefit this and other communities.