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HNU begins “Earliest Admit Program” through West Oakland community partnerships

HNU's Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, Dr. Kim Bowers, Oakland Councilwoman Carroll Fife '10, and Brad Henry cheer on graduates from Oakland's Healthy Engagement Legacy and Learning Academy.

Last fall and spring, Holy Names University graduate psychology professor Dr. Anita Smith taught two extraordinary classes through an HNU partnership with Lincoln Families, First 5 Alameda County, and the West Oakland Zone of Excellence (WOZE). The students were moms of children 0-5 years old and their classes were entitled “Purposeful Parenting” and “Turning Dreams into Reality.”

Lincoln Families is a nonprofit that empowers children and families to build strong futures. They partner with First 5 Alameda County’s “Neighborhoods Ready for School Initiative” to support early childhood development. This program took place in collaboration with the West Oakland Zone of Excellence, which enhances the quality of life of families with children ages birth to five living in the West Oakland community. Families are supported with direct services delivered at Lincoln’s Mandela Family Resource Center and partnerships with local nonprofits, businesses, and institutions. The partnerships help families meet basic needs, but also navigate school readiness programs and plant the seeds for long-term education and career success.  

Last school year, families were invited to enroll in the “Healthy Engagement Legacy and Learning Academy” in partnership with Holy Names University. The Academy is a certificate program that promotes healthy social and emotional developmental practices for caregivers of children under five and action planning for long-term family success. Participants who complete the courses receive three academic units at Holy Names University and their children receive early acceptance letters to HNU. 

In early June, the families took part in a two-day graduation event: a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 4, and a high energy drive-by parade and celebration on Saturday, June 5. Twenty six children under age five received college acceptance letters to Holy Names University and a $1,000 scholarship. 

Says President of Holy Names University Mike Groener, “I was honored to participate in the West Oakland Zone of Excellence/Lincoln Families Virtual graduation ceremony. Greater access and equity in education is a vital part of our society’s future and it’s never too soon to begin ensuring young children and their families are encouraged and supported in realizing educational aspirations.”

Dean of the School of Education Dr. Kimberly Mayfield added, “For families who haven’t gone to college, we really demystified the process and made it accessible. This is something that people can share with pride, ‘My child has already been accepted to college at Holy Names University.’ We create a college-going culture by removing barriers with information for families and with admission. We allow people to see something that is possible. We have made a commitment to their children and we hope it will encourage some of them to start or complete an education journey themselves.”

Says Professor Smith of the Earliest Admit Program, “It makes the parents and the children college-minded. This is like having a savings account. It’s building interest and when you’re ready to use it, it will be there.”  

Look out for interviews with both Dr. Mayfield and Dr. Smith in the Fall 2021 issue of HNU Today magazine.