ALLENTOWN, Pa. – High school students from low-income families in the Allentown School District will have the opportunity to take free college level courses, thanks to a partnership with the nonprofit National Education Equity Lab.
Superintendent Thomas Parker announced during Thursday night’s school board meeting that Allentown was selected as the first district in the state to participate in the program. It strives to provide students in underserved communities the opportunity to develop skills and gain the confidence to recognize that they can excel in college.
Through the program, selected students at Louis E. Dieruff and William Allen high schools and Building 21 Allentown will take online courses at the University of Connecticut and Yale and Howard universities.
Parker said the program aligns with core tenets of the district’s strategic framework, which seeks to provide opportunities, resources and support for students to help them succeed.
“I am beyond excited,” he said in announcing the partnership.
Lucretia Brown, assistant superintendent for equity and accountability, said the National Education Equity Lab will help students overcome barriers by providing them with higher education opportunities at flagship universities.
Targeting Title 1 classrooms, the program will offer online college credit courses for 20 students in each high school at no cost, said Leslie Cornfeld, CEO and founder of the National Education Equity Lab.
“You are on the national radar, and you move fast for your students,” she said, adding that Allentown will serve as a model for school districts across Pennsylvania and the nation.
The administration also announced an additional piece of good news about another opportunity to expose students to a college-level experience.
Starting in summer 2021, eligible high school students will be able to participate in the national Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) business program at Lehigh University.
Selected students will spend three weeks on Lehigh’s campus during the summer between their junior and senior years. The experience includes a mini-course that focuses on areas such as marketing, finance, economics, entrepreneurship and accounting.
Students also go on field trips to visit companies to learn about business and do a group project, said Georgette Phillips, dean of Lehigh’s College of Business.
Parker, an alumnus of LEAD at the University of Texas, said the program changed the trajectory of what he thought was possible in life. “I am a huge fan and supporter, to this day,” he said.