Taking Critical Steps at Newark’s West Side High School to Establish a College-Going Culture

Taking Critical Steps at Newark’s West Side High School to Establish a College-Going Culture

Newark is on the rise in more ways than one. Most people know about recent investments to re-energize the economy – like the Hahne’s Building which houses a new Whole Foods. But there is also a movement across the city to invest in residents, ensuring that Newarkers have every chance to take advantage of new opportunities.


Leading the charge for a more educated workforce is the Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC). Housed at the Cornwall Center at Rutgers University-Newark, NCLC is a partnership of stakeholders moving the city toward higher educational attainment. Central to this goal is developing a college-going culture in all K-12 schools, so that every student has the same opportunity, information, and access to pursue a post-high school degree or credential.


NCLC focuses much of its effort to build a college-going culture at schools like West Side High School, which is considered a comprehensive or neighborhood high school. Unlike magnet schools that have historically served more academically proficient students, comprehensives have often struggled to serve some of Newark’s neediest students. Despite its challenges, all of West Side’s faculty and staff are committed to improving student outcomes and establishing a climate of achievement.


Through partnership with Principal Larry Ramkissoon, guidance counselors, the MCJ Amelior Foundation, and arts partners, NCLC’s efforts at West Side help support areas fundamental to a college-going school culture:


  • Application Days: Hosted for the first time in January 2018, dedicated time during three consecutive school days allowed seniors to submit college applications, write personal statements, and submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) with one-on-one guidance from local college admissions representatives and volunteers.


  • SAT Prep Course: Building on an existing partnership between Newark Public Schools and The College Board to provide a free in-school SAT exam to all juniors on April 10, 2018, NCLC is preparing a group of 50 students at West Side High School for this opportunity. The intensive 8-week long program takes place on Saturdays in the school building, and instruction is provided free of charge by The Princeton Review.


  • Poetic Justice Residency: Research shows that engagement in arts education is related to higher academic achievement. An NJPAC artist helps students use poetry to explore current events, personal development, educational access, and other issues in the community. Students engaged in the Residency also participate in NCLC Saturday programming through Pathways to Achievement and Success, which integrates arts education with college preparation.


As NCLC continues to grow, the goal is that the type of work happening at West Side will extend to every school in the city, ultimately sustaining a city wide college-going culture. While economic re-investment is important, bolstering the capacity of all youth to succeed is crucial for Newark’s future.