The Saginaw Academy for Excellence: An Innovation Between Saginaw Public School District and Delta College
The Saginaw Academy for Excellence was created through a collaborative vision of leaders from Delta College and the Saginaw Public School District (SPSD). Dr. Michael Gavin, Delta College President, and Dr. Ramont Roberts, SPSD Superintendent, led their respective teams in designing a dual enrollment program for high school juniors and seniors which will provide students the opportunity to earn up to 30 credits toward an associate degree in two years. The goals of the Saginaw Academy of Excellence are to
- Provide a seamless route from high school to higher education at no cost to students or their families;
- Expand access to diverse populations by offering college courses in closer proximity to where they live and work;
- Equip high school graduates with portable college credits they can use to continue their associate degree at Delta College or transfer to a four-year institution;
- Launch college student success strategies and skills while students are still in high school to prepare them for academic and extracurricular success in higher education; and
- Prepare students for individualized career and educational journeys that are adaptable and suited to their goals.
The Saginaw Academy for Excellence is the result of purposeful inclusion of diverse populations that, heretofore, had been underrepresented in recruitment and success strategies at Delta College. The college classes are offered in the Downtown Saginaw Center, a new facility built to bring postsecondary education closer to the city of Saginaw, which is the largest urban district in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region.
College Access, Completion, and Equity
During the next year, Delta College will lay the foundation for an inclusive strategic plan, which will be finalized in winter 2023. With equity at its core, the plan will ensure that the college becomes the “Delta of Tomorrow.” We have changed the narrative on student success within the context of access, completion, and equity, and now describe what are typically referred to as equity gaps as opportunity gaps. This robust approach will focus on increasing the number of students who complete their programs while eliminating opportunity gaps between African American and Hispanic/Latino students and other student groups.
The Saginaw Academy of Excellence is firmly housed within the Delta of Tomorrow strategy. In 2021, Delta College’s student population was 8.8 percent African American, 8.3 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 75 percent White; in the same year, the City of Saginaw’s population was 43.9 percent African American, 16.3 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 36.4 percent White (Delta College, n.d.). The Saginaw Academy of Excellence is one strategy of a multi-faceted approach to eliminating opportunity gaps through the creation of an environment of access, completion, and equity.
The first cohort of high school juniors has been recruited into the two-year track of courses listed in Table 1. Students complete five courses a year, two each in the fall and winter semesters and one in the accelerated spring semester. Their schedules include college courses offered from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m., with high school classes occurring afterward.
Table 1: 2022-2024 Class Offerings (Two-Year Track)
In addition to academic coursework which will result in completion of the freshman year of college upon graduation from high school, students enrolled in the Saginaw Academy of Excellence will engage in out-of-classroom experiences and apply the mindset, knowledge, and skills gained to enhance their lives throughout their time at Delta College and beyond. This will be accomplished through weekly transformational opportunities during which each student will develop meaningful relationships with instructors, staff, and peers; the primary goal of these activities is for each student to feel individually valued and connected to the college. We are committed to helping students grow personally, academically, and professionally and succeed in reaching their educational and career goals. By participating in the Saginaw Academy of Excellence, students will learn and develop as outlined in Table 2.
Table 2: Learning Domains and Student Outcomes
Saginaw Academy Program Structure and Communication
The Academy is coordinated by a steering committee led by Dr. Gavin and Dr. Roberts and their teams. The steering committee meets regularly with several subcommittees, including student recruitment, academic scheduling, student development, and program orientation, which work collaboratively and report to the steering committee. The steering committee will also review student success and persistence data for each cohort and through analysis, discussion, and planning, implement continuing quality improvement strategies to build upon program success in reducing opportunity gaps for African American and Hispanic/Latino students in the City of Saginaw.
The goal of is this project is to introduce a multi-faceted equity-focused strategy to support minority high school students to successful completion of their first year of college before high school graduation; prepare them for successful matriculation and completion at community college; and address the personal, academic, and professional needs of the whole student. We intend to continually improve upon our strategy through data collection, analysis, and redesign of this model as needed using key performance indicators at the end of each academic year.
Delta College. (n.d.). 2021 Delta College and Saginaw City demographics. Diversity Dashboard [Internal database]. Institutional Research.
Lead image: The inaugural class of 29 students in the Saginaw Academy of Excellence met in April 2022 for an orientation event.
Michael Gavin is President; Shelly Raube is Dean, Student Success; and Reva Curry is Vice President, Instruction and Learning Services, at Delta College in University Center, Michigan. Ramont Roberts is Superintendent and Mit Foley is Assistant Superintendent, Secondary Schools, Curriculum, and Athletics, for Saginaw Public Schools in Saginaw, Michigan.
Opinions expressed in Innovation Showcase are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.