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Southland counselor presents at national conference

DALLAS—November 15, 2019—For African-American applicants, getting accepted to college is only half the battle, Robert Lane, director of admissions and alumni relations at Southland College Prep Charter High School, asserted today at the National Alliance of Black School Educators annual meeting.

 “It isn’t enough to prepare students academically, we must teach them to mentally resist the narrative that ‘they don’t deserve a seat at the nation’s best colleges,’” said Lane, himself a first generation college graduate who directs an admissions program where every one of the 600 seniors in the school’s nine-year history has been accepted to college with a cumulative total of more than $ 150 million in merit-based scholarship offers.

 Southland College Prep, a Richton Park, Illinois school, has a college persistence rate that averages nearly 90 percent.  

 “Working at Southland College Prep, I’ve seen firsthand how a college education can transform lives, families and communities—especially for students of color,” Lane told the black educators.

 Lane outlined proven methods “to increase college acceptance, enrollment, persistence and graduation that secondary schools can incorporate to increase success rates.”

 “Demonstrate to students how they can ‘write their way’ into a top college or university.  At Southland, we believe that writing extends across the entire curriculum, not just English and literature classes. We want our science, math and social studies students to be able to express themselves no matter their subject matter.  

 “We challenge every high school junior to maintain a journal where they make daily entries of their activities, their ideas, their hopes and aspirations. This exercise helps them frame their own unique story which will be vitally important when they file college applications the following year.

 “We urge our seniors to hone and polish that story so it becomes very unique to them and to no one else, so it will resonate with college admissions officers who are flooded with hundreds and thousands of applications,” he said.   

  “Show students the college experience,” Lane added.

 “Many students in underserved communities have never stepped foot on a college campus. With the cost of a few school busses, a college visit to attend a sports event, to eat in a dining hall or to talk with current students, college can become real and strike a chord in students who are simply going through the motions in high school,” he added.  

 Southland takes its entire junior class on a day-long trip to the University of Notre Dame so students can experience what life is like on a major university campus, Lane said.  

 “Explain why college is a transformational experience. Many parents still believe that the primary function of college is to ensure that children get a job. But high schools must demonstrate that colleges provide much more—an opportunity to network and create options and pathways for success. Social scientists have confirmed that a higher education can mean you can live longer, earn more, have a lower likelihood of going to prison and have children with higher levels of educational attainment,” he said.

 Lane suggested that educators invest in counseling student support services. “The national school counselor-to-student ratio of 455:1, nearly double the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s recommended number, is dismal,” Lane asserted.   

 “The misaligned priority of having a disproportionate number of athletic directors and coaches in relation to college counselors makes it crystal clear that we must invest more in counseling services to build a strong foundation for our young people. This is especially true when the college application and selection process is more complicated and daunting than ever before,” Lane said. 

 Lane urged the black educators “to maintain contact with graduates long after they leave the campus to ensure that they succeed in college academically, emotionally and socially, especially during the first two years of college.”

 Noting that at Southland College Prep in the south suburbs of Chicago in Richton Park, Illinois, Lane explained that “every fall, a team of administrators fans out across the country to visit graduates. We support and problem-solve with them during a meal, a sporting event or sometimes just a meaningful chat,” Lane explained.  During the summer, Southland hires alumni to work in technology, tutoring and even grounds and maintenance as another way of keeping in contact with our graduates, he said.