Meet the Team - iCAN

February 20, 2014

Read about the 2014 Public Policy Challenge Finalists in our Meet the Teams series this week.  Watch the teams compete in the Finals on March 2nd at 1pm at the Van Pelt Library, 6th Floor, 3420 Walnut Street. RSVP HERE for the Finals. Meet iCAN. . .

The Idea

According to the latest longitudinal data on college completion, only 10% of entering 9th graders to the School District of Philadelphia in 1999-2000 had graduate from college by 2009. Despite a renewed focus on college completion, in Philadelphia, college completion and matriculation is still troublingly low. 

According to educational researchers, the pervasive issue of “summer melt” affects many school districts across the United States. Summer melt, which occurs when college-intending students do not matriculate to college, affects about 15% of students nationwide, but, in Philadelphia, 25% of students who are accepted to and intend to enroll in college do not ultimately matriculate.

The summer melt is a crucial issue for intervention because it negatively impacts students who have overcome the largest obstacles to college matriculation – keeping up grades, admission to colleges, and taking standardized tests. iCAN is an innovative solution to the issue of summer melt. iCAN (Philadelphia College Access Network) will address summer melt through a two-pronged solution of a mobile app and a peer mentorship program.

Mentees (college-intending seniors who participate in existing college-prep programs) will be matched with a mentor from a local university in which the mentee intends to enroll. The iCAN app will act as a social platform through which mentors and mentees can connect, as well as including clickable links to relevant tasks for enrollment, contact buttons for requesting help from college access specialists, and a social networking platform for college-bound seniors in the iCAN program. 

In addition to fostering connections through iCAN’s mobile platform, mentors will facilitate monthly peer network meetings in person. These monthly peer workshops will serve as a support group for the college transition. Mentors will be compensated for their time through work-study and will be trained to deal with financial aid, health insurance, and enrollment problems. 

If employed in Philadelphia, iCAN has the potential to help hundreds of high school students, parents, and educators. In the short term, iCAN will improve initial matriculation rates for its first group of targeted students, as well as establishing an infrastructure for other local universities to join. In the intermediate term it will create a positive cycle of mentees becoming upperclassmen mentors, encouraging those who have gained from the program to give back in their later years of college. Finally, in the long term, iCAN will improve overall quality of life for graduates of its program and will increase the economic and social health of the city.

The Team

Jonathan Goins is a graduate student in the School of Design, studying City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Community and Economic Development. 

Shiva Kooragayala is a graduate student in the School of Design, studying City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Community and Economic Development. 

Sarah Simon is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. She plans to attend law school after completing her undergraduate education.

Flora Wang is a graduate student in the Fels Institute of Government studying Master of Public Administration.

Brooke Wieczorek is a first year candidate for the PennDesign Master of City and Regional Planning degree concentrating in Community Economic Development and Public-Private Partnerships, interested in improving quality of life through strategic investments. 

Article written by Jonathan Goins, Shiva Kooragayala, Sarah Simon, Flora Wang, and Brooke Wieczorek

Want to learn more?  Read iCAN's Executive Summary and join us on March 2nd at 1pm at the Van Pelt Library for the Finals!

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