Support of students in the Justice Scholars Institute (JSI), a college preparatory program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, will be enhanced thanks to a grant from Henry L. Hillman Foundation. The $540,000 grant will support an expansion of operational capacity over the next two years that allows for deeper engagement with students as they transition from high school to college.
Through JSI, high school students in underserved Pittsburgh Public Schools take courses for college credit through the University of Pittsburgh’s College in High School Program. Participating students also engage in learning experiences that help them understand the college transition, engage them in their communities, and train them in research skills that support understanding and addressing societal inequities.
Founded in 2016, the JSI program currently partners with students and teachers at Westinghouse Academy, Perry Traditional Academy, and Milliones University Preparatory School. This year, more than 80 students participated in the program.
“This is an exciting expansion of our work,” says Esohe Osai, an assistant professor at Pitt Education and founder and director of JSI. “This grant will enhance our efforts to support the partner schools in providing students with options for rigorous courses, which will give them a better chance at success once they get to college.”
The grant enables the JSI program to hire additional program coordinators and develop a strategy for academic support at the school level to help students in the College in High School courses. Osai notes that, over the past six years of the program, the JSI team has identified patterns of students’ needs as they engage in these rigorous advanced courses.
“There are many barriers to success in these courses, and our goal is to create a strategy to mitigate those barriers through centering students’ individual needs,” says Osai. “We already have amazing partner teachers who do great work with the students. By adding program coordinators, we will provide students with the additional layer of another adult relationship that can enhance their development in a focused and culturally responsive way.”
In addition, the grant funds the development of a strategy to extend support of JSI alumni after they begin their post-secondary education.
“In the past, many students have reached out to us for help once they got to college,” says Osai. “Now we will have a better infrastructure to proactively support the students in that college transition.”
Henry L. Hillman Foundation works to ensure that Pittsburgh’s considerable strengths, assets, and advantages are fully leveraged to make it one of the world’s most innovative and forward-looking cities, building on the late Henry L. Hillman’s legacy for solving big problems through civic leadership and collaboration.
As the JSI program expands, Osai says success will be marked not by how many students are served but also by the quality of students’ experiences.
“Our work aims to transform systems and that doesn’t always mean an immediate, drastic increase in the number of students served,” says Osai. “As the schools are able to expand course offerings, we want to make sure more students are able to find success in those advanced courses and be more prepared to pursue their college aspirations.”
Watch this video for an overview of the JSI program and its impact.