Graduate College Awarded Literacy Grant to Help Local High School Students

Students posing for a photo in front of a classroom
May. 1, 2018


Valarie Burke, executive director of graduate student services, and Katelyn DiBenedetto, Top Tier graduate research assistant, on behalf of the UNLV Graduate College and Phi Kappa Phi Chapter 100, last year received Phi Kappa Phi’s Literacy Grant for their after-school program Project Transforming Tomorrow.

The inaugural completion ceremony for Project Transforming Tomorrow was recently held at Chaparral High School.

The project – a monthly meeting for juniors in high school led by graduate students, Phi Kappa members, and UNLV campus partners – aims to demystify the college experience for low-income, first-generation, and/or minority students in order to help them achieve greater success.

The project combines hands-on activities and discussions from those working in their respective fields. Topics revolve around five core areas: science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). In addition, guest speakers were brought in to talk about College 101, including financial aid, the admission process, and campus life. Students were given a copy of Christine Hand-Gonzales’ College Bound: Proven Ways to Plan and Prepare for Getting Into the College of Your Dreams at the program completion ceremony in order to help them prepare for college as they enter their senior year of high school.

“Prior to Project Transforming Tomorrow, many of the juniors who were part of the program had thought about college, but were unsure about affordability, the transition from high school to college, and even picking a major. This after-school program provided the students with the resources to help ease their nerves and talk to actual UNLV undergraduate and graduate students about their path, several of whom were non-traditional, to university,”  said DiBenedetto. “The program helped demonstrate that higher education can be accessible and can have a transformative impact on not only the student’s life, but their family’s as well.”

The first program cohort was approximately 30 students; but as the program grows and includes more high schools, cohorts will likely grow in response to local need.