Charter school, NDNU begin partnership

ByHeather Murtagh

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In an effort to boost college completion rates, national charter organization KIPP and Notre Dame de Namur University have partnered to enroll 15 local high school graduates in the Belmont school in the next few years.

KIPP, known as the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools including a few in the Bay Area outside of San Mateo County. The organization recently began entering into partnerships with colleges in hopes of strengthening the program offered to students. Notre Dame is the second Bay Area college to sign on.

Starting in the 2013-14 school year, NDNU will seek to enroll 14 KIPP students over two years. Students must meet the university’s admission standards. NDNU has a need-blind admission policy, and KIPP staff will work with students to access financial aid.

“It’s really serendipitous. It’s a natural fit for us,” Hernan Bucheli, vice president of external affairs for Notre Dame, said of the partnership.

KIPP offers mentoring to alumni which will be an added layer to the support programs already offered at the Belmont school for first-generation college students, Bucheli said.

David Ling, alumni affairs director for KIPP Bay Area Schools, agreed. Ling said building such partnerships only furthers what the charter organization hopes to do — help students be prepared for college and also navigate the process of enrolling. By working together, Ling said KIPP students will become more aware of their local options.

By this fall, five KIPP alums will be attending NDNU. Among them is 19-year-old Francisco De Leon Zarate. De Leon Zarate will soon be a sophomore studying psychology with a minor in business. He chose Notre Dame because he liked the small school environment at KIPP.

De Leon Zrate, a graduate of KIPP King Collegiate High School in San Lorenzo, noted having lots of support at KIPP.

“I personally love a little community,” he said.

Even before the partnership, De Leon Zrate noted he found a similarly supportive environment at Notre Dame, which offers support for first-generation students. De Leon Zrate is indeed the first in his family to go to college.

Many KIPP students are first-generation college students. For the Bay Area K-12 KIPP schools, more than 85 percent have gone to college compared to 46 percent from similar low-income communities. KIPP alumni will participate in NDNU’s Gen-1 Program, which provides first-generation college students with student mentors, study skills classes, financial and career seminars and other aid. KIPP alumni attending NDNU will also receive student coaching and mentoring through the university’s InsideTrack program. InsideTrack debuted this spring with a select group of students. This fall, the entire freshman class will start begin the coaching program, which offers one-on-one coaching services to the student cohorts.