by Christina Spence
Data Sharing Project Coordinator
Logan Philon, with College Lift scholars.
Welcome back to the Data Sharing Project blog series! This week, I sat down with Logan Philon, the Assistant Director of Educational Partnerships at Forsyth Tech, to talk about the work College Lift is doing in Winston-Salem.
The Data Sharing Project (DSP) has been working with Forsyth Tech: College Lift (Formerly Piedmont Renewal Network) since the 2018-19 school year. College Lift was one of the first partners we onboarded after the initial pilot of the Data Sharing Project in 2017-18, and we are excited to continue our work together at their new home! Keep reading to learn more about the services they provide, how they are working with the DSP team, and what is on the horizon for the 2021-22 school year!
Can you talk a little about what the College Lift program does?
Of course! College Lift is a college preparatory program, based out of Forsyth Tech Community College, that works with low SES (socio-economic status) and first-generation college bound students in Forsyth County. Starting in sixth grade, College Lift offers programming in the form of 21 Saturday academies a year that provide academic supports surrounding Science, Math, and English Language Arts. Outside of our Saturday Academy, students may also receive after-school tutoring, summer programming to combat “summer slide,” and opportunities to participate in activities designed to support development around social and cultural capital. So things like classes to learn about financial management, college tours, arts, meeting community leaders, or even going to the top of a high rise building downtown! Things these students may not have ever had the opportunity to do or wouldn’t have the opportunity to do outside of our program.
Parents are also extensively involved. There are about 15 parent academy meetings a year where the parents are presented with seminars and information, primarily to keep them involved in their child’s education, and provide resources that may be needed throughout the year. We have a parent leader program, a sort of “by them, for them” design, which encourages engagement and builds community around the program. Something else that’s being added is all the parents are going to be offered human resource development classes and curriculum classes at Forsyth Tech to earn college credit for themselves, if they want.
There are also mental health supports and referrals. Forsyth Tech has counseling supports for students already, so we utilize those services and refer to external partners as needed. We are working with mental health providers in the community who will accept WellCare and Medicaid to provide access for any of our families who may need that additional support.
So that’s social and cultural capital, counseling and mental health resources, academic supports, family supports, and summer programming. And so then, at the end of all this, all these services for seven years, students are able to go to college tuition free. Right now, we have partnerships with Salem College, Winston-Salem State, newly renamed Carolina University, and Forsyth Tech. And with the program now being housed at Forsyth Tech, we’ve been able to start some really exciting conversations with some other local institutions about partnerships moving forward.
If someone walked up and asked you about the Data Sharing Project, and you only had a few minutes to talk about the project, what would you tell them?
I would say it is a project that helps us to aim our efforts, to be intentional. It’s a project that partners with institutions like us and other providers like the YMCA or Crosby Scholars. And it’s saying, “Hey, look, this is what’s actually going on in your program!” You can have an idea of where your kids are and what services you’re providing and how it’s affecting them, but you never really have an accurate view of your own program. Usually, you’re too close to it. The Data Sharing Project (DSP) helps you be objective and uses data to see the impact that you’re having.
The DSP also provides professional consultations on how to make the adjustments that the data shows is necessary through cycles of Continuous Quality Improvement. The DSP helps add to the ecosystem and the community, in the sense that they provide accountability for some of the higher-level projects in the community to say, “listen, you’re running programs, or you are donating to these programs, and this is what’s actually happening and what is needed to improve outcomes over time.”
What has been the biggest benefit to your partnership with the Data Sharing Project?
I feel like we are on the verge of seeing the full benefit of this partnership. We were so close to really implementing things right before the pandemic started, and then we transitioned to Forsyth Tech, so, I would say our experience, up till now, it’s been tremendously helpful to see where our students are with the data we have received from the DSP. I also think that that answer will change by the end of this semester, to making targeted improvements based on the data and other DSP supports. That’s the honest answer. So you can release the blog part two in December or January after we have implemented the work from our partnership and I imagine I would have more to share!
What has been your biggest learning from your partnership with the Data Sharing Project?
I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned, initially though our partnership as the leader of Piedmont Renewal Network, and now as the leader for the program at Forsyth Tech. We have learned how to use, appreciate, and leverage data and what the landscape of data in our community is. You have people on the ground, people running programs, like me, but who aren’t experts in this space, like Dr. Hargrave (the DSP’s Evaluation Manger), and then what happens is you teach us the technical aspects of the data, and what can be done to improve programming. Like your former evaluator, he literally met with me for two and a half hours and explained the EVAAS to me, right in the middle of the pandemic. I am literally able to take that information and use it within my work, and share that learning with other members of the community. It is infusing knowledge into our program and the education landscape in Forsyth County. You all have taken time to provide that data education for partners. And I think that’s important.
What do you hope to accomplish through your continued partnership with the Data Sharing Project? (Projects planned for 2021, etc)
Up until this point, I have gotten to see where the kids are, and now that the pandemic limitations are lessening, and College Lift is settling into Forsyth Tech, I’m looking forward to the Data Sharing Project showing us how to make targeted improvements, and then seeing the manifestations of our targeted work moving forward into the 2021-22 school year.
Do you have anything else to add before we finish up?
Yes, I want to say that I believe Winston-Salem would be in a better place if the Data Sharing Project was able to provide this level of service, have the resources to provide this level of service, to several times more agencies that are serving our students and families.
The work College Lift is doing is unlike anything else in our community. They are not only focusing on student academics, but providing opportunity for life experience and family engagement. We are excited to continue our partnership with College Lift for 2021-22, and who knows, we might just have to check back in with them in a few months to share more about the work we are doing together!
If you have questions about College Lift, you may contact Logan with questions! His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in learning more about the Data Sharing Project, or know of a program in Forsyth county that may benefit from a partnership with us, be sure to check out our website, and reach out to me, Christina Spence, at Chspence@wsfcs.k12.nc.us.
Until next time!