Greater Texas Foundation announces a grant of more than $3 million to the Texas A&M Foundation in support of the AgriLife Extension Rural Student Success Initiative. The new initiative will increase the number of rural students enrolling in and completing postsecondary education by building on Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s unique statewide platform of place-based county agents and youth development staff.
With support from two best-in-class college access and success organizations, College Forward and the National College Access Network (NCAN), Extension agents will provide students and families in nine rural counties with information and coaching from eighth grade through postsecondary completion. The collaboration between Extension agents, college access providers, schools, and families will serve as a promising new model for supporting rural students in postsecondary success.
“Greater Texas Foundation is proud to support this effort aimed at postsecondary success for our state’s rural students,” said Sue McMillin, President & CEO of GTF. “With guidance from College Forward and NCAN and the statewide reach of the AgriLife Extension Service, the goal is to develop a strong model that can ultimately be scaled across the state.”
The number of rural students in Texas is indisputably large—perhaps as high as 900,000—and widely dispersed across many of the state’s small- to medium-sized school districts.
“Texas’ vast rural landscape makes it incredibly difficult to deliver a consistent framework of college access to rural students and their parents,” said Tyson Voelkel, president of the Texas A&M Foundation. “Through this partnership with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, which employs staff in all 254 Texas counties, Greater Texas Foundation is helping our state make strides toward improving access to education. We are so grateful for their generosity in this important endeavor.”
Particularly in rural counties, Extension county agents and youth development staff are credible community leaders engaged with and known by a community’s schools, youth and adults, and civic leaders.
“Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has always been committed to positive youth development,” said Dr. Susan Ballabina, Executive Associate Director of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “Through our network of County Extension Agents, we offer the 4-H Youth Development program in every county in Texas, and we also work with school districts and other youth-serving organizations to positively impact youth and their families. The Rural Student Success Initiative will allow us to demonstrate our commitment to youth development in new ways, with new partners. Our goal in pairing our Extension network of educators with the expertise of our partners is to make meaningful impact in rural communities and provide kids and their families the education and support needed to achieve success in postsecondary education.”
“With the largest rural population of students in the country, there is tremendous need for providing quality programming and support to this population located in small schools in isolated settings,” said Kim Cook, Executive Director of NCAN.
“The collaborative efforts of the organizations will lead to a proven, scalable model that transforms the lives of thousands of underserved students across Texas’s vast rural landscape,” said Austin Buchan, CEO of College Forward. “This work represents a perfect opportunity for College Forward’s long-term vision to scale impact through strategic partnerships.”