High school student smiling.

An early start for college prep in Reno, Nevada

This mentoring and skills-building program gives middle and high school students a better chance to earn a secondary degree.

For some students, graduating from high school and attending college can be unlikely. In response, the Dean’s Future Scholars (DFS) program at the University of Nevada, Reno has made it a reality for many low-income, first-generation college students in the Reno/Sparks community. By providing one-on-one attention, the program has successfully served roughly 1,400 young people since its inception 20 years ago, nine out of 10 of them Black and Latino students.

For up to six years starting in middle school, students receive mentoring during the school year and attend skills-building classes during the summer. The last step before college is the Youth College Internship, an eight-week summer program that gives students first-hand experience balancing college classes and part-time work. In addition to the paid internships and course work for credit, participants receive leadership training at Grizzly Creek Ranch in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Once in college, participants in this free program have continued access to mentoring and job assistance.

The results have been impressive, with 95% of participants graduating from high school over the past five years. More than two-thirds enter college right away, and since the program’s inception 86% of those who enter college also graduate — a crucial step toward wider economic opportunities. Funding from Bank of America, part of the bank’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, helps support this transformative, pre-college intensive program.