As part of the University of Minnesota, the Arboretum has both a responsibility and a unique opportunity to help the children we serve pursue post-secondary education. The goal of the Growing to College project is to build on the success of the Arboretum's Urban Garden Programs by developing and offering activities to this audience that may increase the probability that those children and youth will have opportunities for higher education. As part of this initiative, children and youth will have a series of age-appropriate visits to the University of Minnesota campus. As part of these experiences, the children and youth will be exposed to the University Community, the facilities and the campus life.
In February 2010, Growing to College staff completed an extensive literature review to discover the conditions that contribute to a college-ready environment, as well as best practices to help urban youth attend college and obtain a degree. The research revealed three primary conditions that Growing to College can help foster:
- College awareness: Information about and access to higher education and career opportunities;
- Academic preparedness: Middle- and high-school education with a strong college-prep curriculum;
- Family, peer and community involvement: Encouragement and support from the community.
Strong, nurturing relationships between youth and adults are central to the Urban Garden Children's program. Growing to College builds on these relationships to establish long-lasting connections with the community-at-large that will set more urban youth on the road to college.