Mel Jenkins, Pittsburgh Promise

The Heinz Endowments of Pittsburgh have awarded a $150,000 grant to the university in continued support of the IUP Promise Plus initiative. This is the fourth consecutive year that IUP has been chosen for funding by The Heinz Endowments for this project.

With this recent grant, IUP has received $610,000 from The Heinz Endowments for this program.

Funding for IUP Promise Plus is a collaborative effort between the IUP Pittsburgh Regional Advancement Office, Foundation for IUP, College of Education and Educational Technology, and Research Institute.

“To receive funding for this project for four consecutive years speaks to the quality of this program and the impact it has made in the Pittsburgh area,” said Debra Valentine-Gray, director of the IUP Pittsburgh Regional Advancement Office.

IUP Promise Plus, directed by Developmental Studies professor Melvin Jenkins (photo), aims to expand on Pittsburgh Promise, which is designed to help all students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools District plan, prepare, and pay for education at an accredited postsecondary institution within Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Promise was created by the Pittsburgh Foundation and is supported by Pittsburgh Public Schools and community agencies.

IUP Promise Plus includes the following components:

  • Early contact with students through IUP student and faculty involvement in classrooms and support in the early grades.
  • A specific precollege program that facilitates academic learning skills; the adjustment to college; and the application process, for both students and their parents, at IUP's main or regional campuses.

Part of the precollege initiative brings 35 high school students from four schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools District to IUP for one or two weeks in June. Students will take specially designed courses taught by IUP faculty. They also will be mentored by IUP students, including four who are at IUP as part of the Pittsburgh Promise.

Students in IUP Promise Plus also will participate in YouthWorks, a program to help prepare students for future employment. The program exposes students to career options, helps them to develop real-life workplace skills, and helps match students with employers in the community. Valentine-Gray is a member of the Board of Directors of this Pittsburgh-based program.

“We have seen the IUP Promise Plus program gain significant momentum over the past three years,” said Jenkins. “We are seeing more and more parents interested in having their students be part of the IUP program, with the intent of having their children attend IUP.

“Participation in the YouthWorks program will only add to our students' skill set, offering them additional tools for success in the business world that we don't specifically address in the classroom,” Jenkins said.

“We take our responsibility to these students very seriously,” Jenkins said. “Not only are we committed to providing assistance with academic readiness, including study skills, but we carefully track all of our students to make sure that they remain on track to complete all the necessary requirements to remain in the program and secure a Pittsburgh Promise scholarship.”

IUP Promise Plus is designed to complement Pathways to the Promise, a Pittsburgh Public Schools initiative that aims to ensure all students are “Promise ready,” or on course to graduate and take advantage of a Pittsburgh Promise scholarship.

During the first year of the Promise Plus project, IUP created a model for the program, and the project was formally approved by the Pittsburgh Public Schools' board of directors.

In the project's first, second, and third years, IUP hosted close to 1,000 students from both the Lincoln and Fulton elementary schools for tours and discussions about the college environment.

Initiatives this year include continued collaboration with Pittsburgh Public Schools faculty who teach participating students, so that the work done in the home classroom and at IUP better complement each other.

IUP currently has a partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools that has included the establishment of two professional development schools, membership on the executive board of the School District University Collaborative, and the establishment of Future Educators of America clubs at three Pittsburgh high schools.

IUP has a history of university partnerships that enhance student success at the precollege level. Among them are two Federal TRIO programs—Upward Bound Math-Science and the McNair Scholars Program—designed to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds; the R. Benjamin Wiley Partnership Program for Urban High School Students; dual enrollment agreements with regional school districts; and the Punxsutawney Summer Opportunity Program.

A total of 80 students who are part of the Pittsburgh Promise are currently enrolled or have recently graduated from IUP; nine students in the program graduated in May 2012, with five others set to graduate in August or December.

The first IUP Promise Plus students are expected to enroll at IUP in fall 2013.

The Heinz Endowments supports efforts to make southwestern Pennsylvania a premier place to live and work, a center for learning and educational excellence, and a region that embraces diversity and inclusion.