Students and staff at both Northwestern University and Evanston Township High School are benefitting from a formal partnership between the schools established six years ago. More than 100 examples of collaborations were presented in a report to members of the District 202 School Board at their Feb. 26 meeting, representing work done in four priority areas.
“We are here to say thank you,” said Alan Anderson, Executive Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations at NU, to the District 202 Board. “A year ago, our President got a key to the City which was a sign of improved relations (with the community).” The mission of the ETHS-NU partnership is to connect resources to enhance the educational experience at both institutions, he said, and it has proven to be a “true partnership” and “opportunity to learn”.
In September 2012, an NU/ETHS partnership office opened on the ETHS campus, formalizing ties between the schools. The office is fully funded by NU as part of President Schapiro’s Good Neighbor, Great University Initiative.
Kristin Perkins, NU/ETHS Partnership Coordinator, elaborated on specific efforts. “We spent a lot of the first five years listening and following your lead and your goals, and following the needs and challenges identified here,” she said.
That listening developed into four priorities.
Priority No. 1 – Diversity in STEM Pathways
Several initiatives serve to create pathways in STEM, many for students of color and women who are underrepresented in the fields. Program for Parents, Classroom Guest Speakers, and Mentorship programs, for example, connect with the National Society of Black Engineers, ETHS Engineering, and E-BAN to bring engineering career awareness to ETHS students of color.
Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (WiSTEM) is a student group at ETHS with NU mentors to support young women in STEM courses and career pathways. Coaches and mentors from NU provide support for ETHS students in the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, Jr. Chapter. Other initiatives extend professional development to ETHS teachers, provide loaner science equipment, tutoring and events.
Priority No. 2 – STEAM: Integrating Arts and Design into STEM
Incorporating art and design into STEM is another priority. NU and ETHS are “building opportunities, and addressing industry challenges,” said Ms. Perkins.
New initiatives include design contests, research opportunities, teacher professional development and new courses. STEAM Design Thinking and Innovation is an ETHS course modeled after interdisciplinary courses and programs at NU that “promote arts, design, and creativity throughout the STEM disciplines.”
Priority No. 3 – Career Awareness and College Access
Collaboration has also served to better prepare students for what happens after ETHS. Kits & Cats Day @ Northwestern is an event that brings sophomores and juniors to NU for a campus experience. Students enrolled in ETHS’s AVID program, Project Excite, Y.O.U., YAchievers, and Evanston Scholars can attend NU’s College Preparation Program with scholarships that cover all costs. Various career days, tutoring and mentorship efforts also support students’ pathways.
Priority No. 4 – Identity and Social Consciousness
NU students are feeling more engaged and connected to the community through collaboration and involvement in ETHS summits, empowerment conferences and special events. NU supports all summits in ETHS’s Social Consciousness Series “in unique ways” said Ms. Perkins. For example, for the Black Male and Female Summit, NU provided volunteers and facilitators. A Women’s Empowerment Conference will become an annual event at NU. LatinX, LBTQ, Syrian and Middle Eastern student groups have been involved in various collaborations and projects as well.
Board Member Mark Metz recalled discussions when the partnership formed. “At that time, we knew it would only work if everyone wins. It’s obvious what we get out of it, so I’m glad to hear your remarks on what NU learns from this as well.” Mr. Metz added that at the time, some were skeptical that NU “would only want to work with the best and brightest” but it was clear that has not been the case.
Jude Laude said he “loves the focus on diversity” and asked if there has been an increase in admissions for Black or Latino students applying to NU.
The partnership is, “not intended to be pipeline generator,” said Mr. Anderson, “but more students now see NU as option and as a result, we are seeing a dramatic increase in applicants and admissions of ETHS students. Something is happening.”
Board Member Jonathan Baum said that there are 65 ETHS graduates who are now freshmen at NU, or 7% of the ETHS class of 2017 which is a pretty high rate in light of the fact that the acceptance rate at NU is 9%.
“We want kids more interested in college to see a campus,” said Mr. Anderson. The partnership focuses on making sure we, “give kids the knowledge and tools to get to the next step. There are a lot of great schools.”