A&M-San Antonio Boosts Academic Trajectory of “At Risk” Students

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July 18, 2017
With the support of a $50,000 grant from the San Antonio Area Foundation, Texas A&M University-San Antonio students will soon give a boost to the academic trajectory of local school children. Through a partnership with the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) and Communities in Schools of San Antonio, A&M-San Antonio will deliver a unique mentoring program to students at Stewart Elementary School. The University Peer Academic Student Support (U-PASS) program pairs 50 students in grades 3 to 5 with 20 A&M-San Antonio teacher candidates in the College of Education and Human Development with the goal of improving school children’s academic success.
At Stewart Elementary, nearly 80 percent of the school’s students are identified as “at risk” of dropping out of school before the age of 12. To reduce these numbers, U-PASS is designed to improve students’ academic performance through mentoring relationships focused on creating pathways to college readiness.
“Elementary school participants will be selected based on academic achievement, reading level and overall need,” said Shelley Harris, Ph.D., U-PASS Administrator and Assistant Dean of A&M-San Antonio’s College of Education and Human Development.
The program emerged after SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez contacted A&M-San Antonio in search of an innovative approach to improve student success at Stewart Elementary, an improvement-required (IR) school. To provide a lasting solution with U-PASS, A&M-San Antonio is also partnering with Communities in Schools of San Antonio, which will provide an on-site coordinator at the elementary school to facilitate program management.
“The three partners’ collective vision made this possible,” said W. Sean Kearney, Ed.D., Interim Dean of the College of Education and Human Development. “This is an excellent example of a school district, a nonprofit education agency and a university working together to change the academic trajectory for students.”
All tutors are teacher candidates in the College of Education and Human Development. They were selected based on grade point average, content knowledge and individual interviews. These 20 well-qualified tutors will apply the skills and knowledge learned in their University coursework to provide near-peer tutoring—a form of learning that functions to provide both academic and dispositional support.
The short-term goal of the U-PASS program is for all participants to demonstrate 1.5 years of growth in at least one academic area in one year. In the long run, U-PASS strives for all participants to graduate from high school.  
Tutoring begins during the fall 2017 semester and runs through spring 2019.
For more information about the U-PASS program, please contact U-PASS Administrator and Assistant Dean of the College of Education and Human Development Shelley Harris, Ph.D. at (210) 784-2502.
About Texas A&M University-San Antonio
With a nearly 700-acre Main Campus to expand into, the Military Embracing™ university welcomed its inaugural class freshmen class in August 2016 and is now a comprehensive four-year university. Currently enrolling approximately 5,500 students, Texas A&M University-San Antonio is one of the fastest-growing universities in the state. To learn more, visit tamusa.edu.
About the San Antonio Area Foundation
For more than 50 years, the San Antonio Area Foundation has served as the community foundation for the San Antonio area. The Area Foundation helps donors achieve their charitable goals and serves as a collaborative leader, investing in the future of our community by bringing people together to address key community issues. The Area Foundation manages more than 500 charitable funds and $905 million in assets. Since 1964, $358 million for scholarships and grants have been awarded to nonprofits that educate youth, preserve the environment, protect animals, fund research and provide a variety of services that enhance the quality of life in our region. Learn more about your community foundation at saafdn.org.
Cavett McCrary, Sr. Communications Specialist
(210) 784-1103