Graduating from high school and attending college was once only a dream to 19-year-old Dreama S. After overcoming multiple obstacles including surviving cancer, the trauma of losing a sister and experiencing temporary homelessness, she graduated with honors from FLEX High School in the fall of 2020 during a national pandemic. She recently started her first semester at Central State University (CSU), a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Ohio. CSU is part of the 1890 Universities Foundation’s multi-state network of HBCUs established in 1890 through the Second Morrill Act.
The Foundation and Lifelong Learning, a nonprofit educational services organization that supports public charter networks FLEX High and Learn4Life, have partnered to bolster college readiness and increase college access and enrollment for at-risk students. The partnership is the first of its kind between networks of publicly funded K-12 schools and a national consortium of HBCUs.
Dreama and other students benefit from increased access, resources and financial support to help them transition to and succeed in college. As part of the partnership, Lifelong Learning has funded a College Access Program $5,000 scholarship, and Dreama was its first recipient.
The personalized instruction, social-emotional support and flexible school day Dreama received at FLEX High made it possible for her to tackle high school while earning college credits through dual enrollment at Columbus State Community College. The pandemic forced her to delay her start at CSU until the spring semester and stay closer to home while attending Columbus State.
“HBCUs create a welcoming environment for all learners regardless of their race, ethnicity or income level,” said Michelle Harvey, vice president of innovation at Lifelong Learning. “Their focus on developing resilient learners is a natural extension of the one-on-one, personalized support FLEX and Learn4Life students receive.”
Learn4Life and FLEX recently held a Virtual College Week for 11 HBCUs and Hispanic Serving Institutions to present their schools, college life and admissions requirements to students. Dreama spoke as part of the presentation, offering advice and words of encouragement to high school students.
“Don’t stop, don’t quit, don’t drop out,” she said. “Keep doing what you need to do, and you will finish. I promise you, Class of 2021!”
For more information about the schools and the partnership with the 1890 Foundation, visit www.flexhighohio.org/hbcu-partnerships.