ASU's WeGrad program is expected to launch in Spring 2022 to further educate families about the process of applying to higher education and what to look forward to in doing so.
WeGrad is a rebrand of ASU’s American Dream Academy program, and in the spring, it will offer an updated curriculum to elementary and high school families in both English and Spanish.
The program's goal is to provide families with self-paced and self-discovery experiences and tools to ensure their child’s academic success, according to their website.
“What we've learned is that a lot of the families want their children to continue to higher education, but didn't always know about financial aid or the entry and application requirements,” said Marcela Lopez, an executive director of outreach at ASU.
According to Alex Perilla, director of the American Dream Academy, the development of the program began 15 years ago and was the result of a single question: "What can ASU do to improve the educational status of Hispanic people?"
The solution was to give them the tools and opportunities to help themselves, Perilla said.
WeGrad is meant to appeal to all people interested in learning how to better prepare themselves and their students for higher education. One of the main goals of rebranding the American Dream Academy into WeGrad is to reach more people than the original program did in the past 15 years, Perilla said.
Another goal of the rebrand was to modernize the American Dream Academy to fit with the current times.
"The American Dream Academy was never designed to educate just Dreamers, it was designed to help all families help their children achieve the American Dream through the transformative power of education," Perilla said in a follow-up email. "I believe that WeGrad will help us achieve that goal without having to differentiate Dreamers from non-Dreamers."
In the WeGrad program, families will receive text messages either providing parents with a link to the WeGrad Facebook page, or links directly to the course material.
“I'm a first-generation student, and I feel like the program definitely helped my mom figure out what she wanted me to do. Since she started taking these classes when I was in elementary school, she was always telling me how I was going to go to college, so the idea of going to college was just always in my mind,” said Diana Sales Adame, a junior majoring in anthropology and neuroscience and office assistant at American Dream Academy.
Perilla said WeGrad will be centered around a type of learning referred to as microlearning, meaning small pieces of information are released in short-term activities or presentations.
There are two different curriculums offered, one based on elementary students learning and one for those with students in high school. Both the elementary and high school programs follow the same format: one introductory video, followed by 15, three-minute videos delivered once per week. The 15 videos are divided equally between five lessons: charge, blaze, admit, charting the course and final road trip.
This new curriculum will be provided to students and parents directly on their cellphones and allows them to view the course work at a time that is most convenient for them.
"We realize that's expensive time when kids need to do homework and parents need to take care of things after they get home from work. With the new program, we're just meeting them at whatever time they want," Perilla said.
In addition to these five lessons, there will be other supplemental resources available to the parents online. By offering these programs on an online platform, the staff at ASU will be able to track community engagement and get immediate feedback from the families participating in the programs. This curriculum is building on the previous 15 years of access provided by varying American Dream Academy programs.
“WeGrad will continue to emphasize the fact that there is a transformative power to education. Parents and students will continue to appreciate this information which will allow them to increase that transformative power so that their students can graduate from college and become successful and productive citizens in whatever way they need to be in our country's future,” Perilla said.
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Lauren Kobley is a reporter for the Community and Culture desk at The State Press. She has previously interned with the Fountain Hills Times.