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Building the P-16 Pipeline, one child at a time

Charlotte Twardowski, who manages multiple programs for College Connections at Lone Star College-North Harris, is building the P-16 Pipeline in North Harris County in partnership Andrenette Marshall, assistant principal at Keeble Pre-K Center in the Aldine Independent School District.

But neither Twardowski nor Marshall is a pipeline engineer and the P-16 Pipeline isn’t for the transport of oil or natural gas.

“The P-16 Pipeline,” Twardowski explained, “is the pre-school to college pipeline that prepares our young people to be successful adults…and research tells us students need to hear about the value of a college education as early as pre-school.”

Big job? Absolutely! That’s why Twardowski and Marshall put their heads together and brought 775 four-year-old pre-schoolers at Keeble Education Center and their parents together for an exciting event from on Oct. 8.

‘The concept of college can be a bit confusing to students in the early grades,” Twardowski admitted. "Many times, the pre-kindergartners are not even sure what it means to go on from pre-K to elementary school, so that’s why we hosted “The Early College Connection Celebration at Keeble Center.”

The idea for the Keeble Center event began several months ago when Twardowski sat down beside Marshall at a seminar. “We began talking and when Andrenette told me she had been able to get a college education, thanks to LSC-North Harris, we made an immediate connection…but then she said part of her job was to get children–as early as pre-kindergartners–to begin thinking about college,” Twardowski remembered.

“I think it stimulates their curiosity,” said Marshall. “We’re adding the words and the concept to their vocabularies. I was raised by my grandparents, so all I ever heard was ‘finish high school.’  These kids will be learning that college is the only option. It’ll be part of their nature.”

“I told her we could bring the College Connection from LSC-North Harris to her school and she was surprised, but that was our starting point…and the idea grew from there,” the program manager continued. “As the word got out, we received offers from Aldine’s high schools to send bands, drama groups, dance teams, choirs and cheerleaders to take part. LSC-North Harris printed tee-shirts for the kids emblazoned with the–in English and in Spanish–‘Future Graduate of Lone Star College-North Harris.’  Tee-shirts for faculty, staff and parents said, ‘Lone Star College- North Harris.’”

“It was also exciting the for parents who attended this event,” Twardowski said, “because not only did they go away with a working knowledge about college and its value, but we had a drawing for two $300 LSC-North Harris scholarships for parents who wanted to start school for the first time or those who wanted to go back and finish a degree. We think these drawings may even change the lives of the winners.”

How important is it for youngsters to begin thinking about college as early as pre-school? 

Keeble Pre-Kindergarten Education Center Assistant Principal Marshall said she wished someone had begun talking with her about college when she was a youngster.

“A majority of our students are economically disadvantaged, so college isn’t something you automatically hear about,” Marshall said. “Knowledge is power and this will give our students, as well as their parents, an opportunity to hear about and learn about college.

“It’s a blessing–being able to host this experience,” the vice-principal continued, “and this will make college second nature. This will be something they’ll remember–and especially at this age, they need that.” 

“Students need to begin accumulating a general knowledge about the world and an academic vocabulary from a young age,” said Chrys Daughtery senior research scientist at the National Center for Educational Achievement in Austin.

Some families–especially those where the parents have gone to college–often begin this process through conversations with their children in the home. In families where the main priority is making ends meet, college knowledge must come from other experiences–like the Lone Star College-North Harris Early College Connection event.

“We want parents to begin talking about college with their children around the dinner table,” Twardowski said. “We want kids to buy-in on the value of a college education early in their education–and we think this event can be a starting place for those dinner-table conversations.”

“Sometimes our kids see things that are so far out of reach,” Marshall said, “but this will make it real…a reachable goal for all of them.”

Twardowski and College Connections at Lone Star College-North Harris has a singular goal of connecting students and their parents to the value of going to college. The multiple programs she manages -- dual credit programs for high school students, the early college high school, the accelerated early college high school program, and the shared counselors program with Aldine ISD, Spring ISD, Klein ISD and a faith-based high school in North Harris County–work every day to get college knowledge out to the community.

“When Andrenette and I first talked, I envisioned a simple program,” Twardowski admitted. “We ended up partnering with Aldine ISD and they brought their high school kids in buses and it grew into a beautiful event with great activities for everyone…all geared to get them talking and thinking about going to college now.”

Participating Aldine ISD high schools included Aldine, Carver, MacArthur, Nimitz and Eisenhower. The College Connection Division from Lone Star College-North Harris attended as well as counselors from Aldine ISD, Spring ISD, Klein ISD and recruiters from the college’s Student Outreach and Retention Program.

A few years ago, the average educational attainment for adults living in the Aldine district was seventh or eighth grade. Ninety percent of the students attending schools in Aldine ISD qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

“Our goal is to help parents and teachers develop environments that are college nurturing,” Twardowski said, “and if this life-changing message changes the life of one person, then it’s not only worthwhile…but it’s also the right thing to do.” 

Keeble Pre-K Center is located at 203 West Gulf Bank in Aldine. For additional information, call 281.878.6860.

LSC-North Harris is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 East, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. Registration for second start classes is now in progress. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit: northharris.lonestar.edu.


Lone Star College System consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Center, LSC-University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. With more than 58,000 students in credit classes this fall, LSCS is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and third largest community college system in Texas. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.




Oct. 16, 2009



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