UF Alliance marks 10 years of improving college access for minority students in Florida’s inner-city schools

Posted Nov. 12. 2010

In 2000, only two seniors from Miami Carol City High School were accepted into the University of Florida. A decade later in 2010, UF enrolled 22 seniors from the inner-city school.

Stephen Backs, a world history teacher at the school, attributes the dramatic increase to the UF Alliance, a College of Education-based, school improvement program that partners with six high-poverty high schools in Florida’s three largest cities–Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami (including Miami Carol City High)–and with three affiliate schools in Puerto Rico.

The Alliance last year provided outreach and college access activities to more than 1,100 high school students, mostly underserved minority urban youth.

Diane Archer-Banks and Stephen BacksBacks (pictured, right, with Alliance interim director Diane Archer-Banks), on Nov. 9, made the long drive from Miami to Gainesville to help the Alliance celebrate its 10th anniversary with a reception on campus at UF’s Reitz Union. He told about 50 guests, including UF President Bernie Machen, that he was one of the first teachers approached at his school to help select 40 ninth-grade students to participate in the Alliance’s first campus tour.

Since 2001, the Alliance has hosted 3,000 ninth-graders from partnering schools for overnight visits to UF, giving them a taste of college life and familiarizing them with the academic offerings and the admissions process.

Other Alliance activities for students include leadership forums, mentoring, and school-based events to heighten awareness of the college preparation and planning process for both students and their parents.

Archer-Banks said the Alliance annually awards 30 scholarships–five to each partnering school–for students to attend UF. The scholarships are valued at $12,500 over four years.

Banks said that through hard work and determination, the Alliance and its partnering schools “have created a revolution of hope that has helped to dispel the myth among low-income, underrepresented students that they can never attend college.”

At the anniversary celebration, Archer-Banks presented Sophie Maxis and Bernie Olivermore than a dozen awards of appreciation to staff, supporters and collaborators, including Backs and Bernie Oliver, who recently stepped down after five years as UF Alliance director. Oliver (pictured, right, with Alliance staff member Sophie Maxis) remains on the UF education faculty. UF Alliance students Jamisha Jenkins (from Jacksonville Raines High) and Miguel Mejia (Miami Senior High) also gave testimonials about how the program helped them beat the odds and earn Alliance scholarships to UF.

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SOURCE: Diane Archer-Banks, interim director, UF Alliance, daBanks@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER/PHOTOGRAPHER: Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu