A program that raises funds to help educate students at HBCUs has announced a partnership to create a network of public secondary schools to better prepare Black students to enter college.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and Connections Education will launch TMCF Collegiate Academies, which will pair classroom and online learning techniques. Baltimore-based Connections Education, a fully-accredited virtual education program, has online learning programs that allow students to individualize their education and work at a personalized pace, officials said.

TMCF, on the other hand, has supported about 300,000 students who attend its 47 member-schools, which include public HBCUs. The secondary academies, which organizers hope to launch by the 2014-15 school year, will be established on or near various HBCU campuses.

The goal of the tuition-free, open enrollment secondary schools is to “pipeline” students into college, according to TMCF spokesperson Juontonio Pinckne .

“We’ve heard the call for educational reform,” he said. “We believe that this is a market where we can have a cradle-to-the-grave pipeline in order to support our schools, strengthen the talent that is coming into our institutions…and essentially a better, more qualified, globally competitive member of society in the end.”

The first steps are to plan a strategy, build a design, and “see where a program like this is needed the most” then “attack those target areas,” Pinckne said.

The first Academy is projected for Southern University in New Orleans, where discussions are already underway.

“This is the first time in our 25-year history that we have made such a major commitment to secondary school education and we are really excited to partner with…Connections Education to bring TMCF Collegiate Academies to the communities we serve,” TMCF President Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. said in a statement.

Pinckne suspects that the predominantly black demographics of the public HBCUs that TMCF serves will be mirrored in the new schools. Academy students who earn at least a 3.0 grade point average will become eligible to receive TMCF scholarships, officials said.

The partners hope to open as many as ten academies in the next five years.
“I see this as an on-going program,” he said. “We’re looking for ways to set the tone for the next 25 years.”

Jessika Morgan

AFRO Staff Writer