Lauren Nelson has dedicated herself and her career to the field of education. Site coordinator of the ACE program at One Bright Ray (OBR) Community High School, Lauren combines a college degree and work experience in higher education administration with a straightforward nature and strong commitment to her students to ensure that members of the OBR community know that a college degree is absolutely within their reach.
And her work is having measurable impact.
Under Lauren’s leadership, the ACE student body at OBR has grown from 30 to 105, and the North Philadelphia community surrounding OBR now has forty more members with Associates Degrees. Graduates have earned promotions, started new jobs, increased household income and are furthering their education in bachelor’s degree programs.
Lauren credits the site’s success to building solid relationships— her with prospective students, and students with their networks of family and friends. She meets community members where they are in relationship to this thing called college. What’s it like? What actually happens? Can I do it? How do I pay for it? What does it mean for my future? Why this program? “To a lot of students we work with, college is such an abstract idea. I want to break it down with students, this is something that’s completely accessible to you.”
Lauren makes the idea of college a reality for students, and as they grow in confidence and understanding of the value of education, they become natural ambassadors of higher education in the community. “You see it when students bring family members and friends into the program. Having a family member in college makes it tangible for others who start thinking, ‘maybe I could do it as well’. ACE students are paving the way for everyone in their family, setting an example for cousins, children, grandparents.”
Through the ACE program at OBR, college transforms from an abstract idea to a welcoming community of learners that feels like home. “Students feel a part of something. School is almost a rest and refuge. Life is in flux and challenging, it’s great to have a place to come and be yourself.”
Community, accessibility, connection to and support for success in higher education. This is ACE. Its work, its heart, its purpose.
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