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MODELS OF EXCELLENCE: Helping Arizona Youth Prepare for Grade 13

by Expect More Arizona

Pres, Meels, AnthWith a name like Prescott Winslow, you’d have to be deeply invested in the success of Arizona. Only, Pres – as he likes to be called – isn’t originally from the Grand Canyon State. A product of public schools in a New York City suburb, he first came to Arizona in 1965 to serve as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) for two years on the Gila River Indian Community south of Phoenix. After spending 30 years in Seattle, Pres felt Arizona calling him back. It was only fitting that he settled in the Arizona town that shares his last name.

In Winslow, Pres notes, students don’t have the same opportunities afforded to kids in more affluent areas. He’s noticed in his travels that students of middle class families and above have better access to advancement tools like test preparation courses and college application consultants. That’s why he recently launched the Center for Career and College Advising in Winslow to help “level the playing field” for local youth.

The Winslow community has come out in full support of his effort. The newly remodeled office space in the Winslow movie theatre, the sign stenciled in the window, and the bookshelves that hold invaluable resources for his advisees were all donated by community members. Pres recently put the final coat of paint on the walls and is now ready to help students and their parents prepare for what he calls the 13th grade.

“In an ideal world, the 13th grade means some type of postsecondary education or vocational training,” says Pres. “But the ultimate goal is to help students prepare for a career.” Getting ready for a career starts earlier than some might think. For example, for certain careers it would be advisable to take calculus in the senior year of high school; that means a student would need to be advised by the end of grade seven that he or she would need to enroll in Algebra 1 the following year.

Pres firmly believes that parents can do a lot to put their kids on the right track early, before schooling even begins and throughout their education. “Schools by their very nature tend to focus on students’ deficits, their need to improve in weak areas. But students who are weak in core academic subjects may be exceptionally talented in other areas such as art, music, or athletics. Parents can support their children by further developing these special talents and helping them explore careers based on those strengths.”

The Expect More message resonates with Pres and his own mission, but he acknowledges that not everyone can focus their efforts full-time on helping our students succeed. He does have suggestions for how any Arizonan can get involved in their free time:

  • Approach a local school district for volunteer opportunities. Many districts have thriving volunteer programs; if yours doesn’t, offer to help them start one.
  • Contact the counseling office at your nearest high school to find out if you can help students with admission essays, test preparation, or scholarship applications.
  • Consider helping students interested in pursuing a career similar to yours. Offer to be a guest speaker on your career, how you got there, and how students can prepare to succeed in your field.
  • Learn where your elected officials and candidates stand on education, and make sure they know you’re considering their positions on Election Day.

    Prescott Winslow is more than just a proud member of the Expect More Arizona movement. He is a volunteer math tutor, education activist, author of a career and education column for his local newspaper, and now, a career and college advisor. Every day he demonstrates what it means to expect more of Arizona’s students, teachers, communities, leaders, and – most of all – of himself.

    “People of all ages tend to rise or sink to the level of what is expected of them,” he says. “That’s why ‘expect more’ is not just a slogan.  It’s a strategy for getting outstanding results.”

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