Feature: Eastside College Preparatory School
Nationally the college completion rate for first generation college students is just 11%, according to a 2009 Pell Institute study. Eastside College Preparatory School, a tuition-free day and boarding school located in East Palo Alto, is defying this staggering statistic. Ninety-eight percent of the schools’ graduates are first generation college bound students and 80% of Eastside’s alumni have graduated, or are on track to graduate, from a four-year university. Since enrolling its first class of eight students over a decade ago, 100% of Eastside’s graduates have been accepted to a four-year university. Alumni from Eastside have attended schools like Stanford, Santa Clara, Pomona, Tufts, Princeton, Berkeley, Columbia, Amherst, and Harvard.
Eastside was founded in 1996 by two Stanford graduates who wanted to address the high drop-out rates and low college enrollment of students from East Palo Alto. The only high school in East Palo Alto closed in 1976, and local students had been bussed to high schools in neighboring, more affluent communities for decades. In these schools, students struggled to succeed. 65% of East Palo Alto students dropped out and of those that did graduate, only 10% enrolled in four-year colleges. Eastside was created with the goal of getting these students to college. The Kimball Foundation has been contributing to Eastside since Eastside’s early days. In fact, the Kimball Foundation has continued its support of the school each year since 1999 as part of the foundation’s academic enrichment grant-making program, which supports nonprofits that prepare disadvantaged youth for college admission and completion.
Currently, Eastside has 330 students from grades six through twelve. 100% of Eastside’s students are people of color and most of the students are from the low-income communities of East Palo Alto, eastern Menlo Park, or Redwood City. 100 of its students reside in the boarding facility, built in 2007 when Eastside faculty realized that some of its students would benefit from the stability and academic support of a full-time residential experience. Eastside’s goal is to enroll 360 students (approximately 72 in the middle school and 288 in the high school) over the next four years and to expand the capacity of its residential program. Eastside has consistently broadened the academic options it offers, adding more classes each year. It recently began a college English class that fulfills freshman English requirements at UC and CSU schools. It also added computer science and engineering classes to help its students succeed in fields where the achievement gap is the widest. All of the classes at Eastside are taught by dedicated faculty—over 50% of Eastside’s teachers have taught at Eastside for more than five years.
Eastside credits the college success of its students in part to an engaging
and challenging curriculum that sets high academic standards. To help students reach this bar, Eastside provides layers of support, from an extended school day to one-on-one tutoring. It creates a culture of learning that encourages students to take control of their academic and personal success. Additionally, Eastside emphasizes college throughout its curriculum. The middle school curriculum promotes the benefits of a college education and high school students are required to take three years of college readiness courses. Eastside’s rigorous education experience in tandem with the students’ indefatigable hard work and dedication will have a positive ripple effect in these students’ families and communities, long after these students have finished school.
Check out Eastside’s website to learn more.