Saint Louis University and Access Academies Partner to Propel At-Risk Youth to Academic, Career Success

St. Louis, MO – Access Academies, a leading local nonprofit that propels at-risk students from middle school to college and career success, and Saint Louis University will join forces in an innovative partnership aimed at expanding educational opportunities for hundreds of students across St. Louis.

Starting July 1, Access Academies will integrate its successful middle school enrichment, and high school and college support programs into Saint Louis University’s School of Education. Doing so will both strengthen SLU’s connection to students in local Catholic schools and their surrounding neighborhoods, and allow Access to leverage the School of Education’s expertise, extensive pedagogical and data research resources and Billiken Teacher Corps to further enhance its programming. The partnership will also provide Academy students with future educational opportunities at SLU, as well as offer support for Access employees and enhanced collaboration with SLU educators.  

“Access Academies’ mission is perfectly aligned with the mission of SLU and the School of Education,” says Gary Ritter, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education at SLU. “This is a mission we should be zealously pursuing, particularly in these times, where students are losing ground academically because of the global pandemic and because of long-standing inequalities, which are now more starkly in the public view. These are exactly the students and schools that are central to SLU’s Jesuit mission.”

Since its founding in 2005, Access has positively impacted more than 1,200 local students using an innovative program that emphasizes extended school days bolstered by a rigorous enrichment curriculum, more than 11 years of graduate support counseling from sixth grade through college graduation and generous high school scholarships to ensure Academy graduates attend top private high schools, with over $5.2 million awarded to date. The Access development staff and Board of Directors will continue to fundraise for these high school and college scholarships, as well as fund all Access/SLU partnership programming.  

The Access program currently serves 175 students in three partner middle schools — St. Cecilia Catholic School & Academy, St. Louis Catholic Academy and Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis — as well as 333 students in 25 college-prep high schools and in 59 colleges and post-secondary institutions across the country. Each year, 99 percent of Access graduates are accepted to private, college-prep high schools; 98 percent graduate on-time; and 96 percent are accepted to colleges, universities, or other post-secondary institutions.

Both the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Sister Thea Bowman School in East St. Louis enthusiastically endorsed the new partnership between Access and SLU, recognizing the added educational benefits it would afford their students.

SLU and Access have long maintained a strong relationship. Access Academies is currently housed in Fitzgerald Hall in the School of Education, and Academy high school students annually attend summer learning programs on SLU’s campus. In addition, every sixth grader enrolled in an Access Academies’ partner school takes a field trip to SLU each spring.

Most recently, Access and SLU have teamed up to develop a four-week virtual tutoring program for eighth-grade graduates. Through this program, SLU students and other Access college alums are working with the Access team to prepare rising freshmen for high school by tutoring them in reading, math and digital literacy skills. Through this new partnership, researchers in the School of Education and in SLU’s Prime Center will conduct evaluation work on various Access programs, such as this tutoring program. This research will provide new opportunities for SLU researchers and students while also improving programming for Access students. 

“The Access partnership with SLU will open up new and wonderful opportunities for the students we serve,” says John Vatterott, Access Founder & Chair Emeritus. “New opportunities will enable each student to reach their full potential.”

Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University (SLU) is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of nearly 13,000 students on two campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of nearly 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good. Learn more at www.slu.edu.

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