Commentary: Student Success is OUR Success

Dunbar Graduation courtesy photo


Throughout the country, school leaders, parents and families are making difficult decisions concerning the safety of re-opening schools, how to best manage a virtual environment, and weighing the threat of COVID-19 and its educational impact to students not returning to the classroom.


While the global pandemic will certainly increase the need for helping students realize college and career success, educational outcomes along the lines of income and race have been a challenge in Tarrant County for decades.

Today, 65% of jobs in North Texas require a postsecondary credential, and by 2036, 71% of jobs across Texas will require some college. Yet only 39% of adults in Tarrant County possess an associate degree or higher.

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When we follow our students through high school, we see several disturbing trends:

Jay McCall

– 23% of Tarrant County eighth graders never graduate high school;

– 46% never enroll in a two-year or four-year college; and

– 77% never complete a two-year or four-year degree within six years of high school graduation. 

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Understanding the urgent need to find a solution, we joined a group of Tarrant County leaders led by the Rainwater Charitable Foundation and the North Texas Community Foundation. Together we traveled across the country to learn from other cities that put their students on a pathway to lifelong success.

Our research spurred the Tarrant To & Through (T3) Partnership, a new local coalition of school districts, colleges, universities, employers and community organizations.

Classroom courtesy photo T3

Leveraging national best practices and building on existing efforts, our dedicated staff is focused on providing direct services to boost the number of high school graduates who:

– Are College, Career, and Military Ready (CCMR);

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– Enroll in postsecondary pathways (two-year and/or four-year institutions, vocation/trade schools, or military); and

– Complete a degree/credential and enter the workforce prepared for success.

Our North Star is a profound belief that student success is OUR success. We know Tarrant County’s economy, our growth and future potential from Fort Worth to Arlington, hinges on our investment in the students and leaders of tomorrow.

Our first district partner is Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD), and beginning this month, all FWISD juniors and seniors can become T3 Scholars by signing the Partnership Pledge. As T3 Scholars, our students are introduced to high-impact interventions including additional college and career advising, scholarships, and job shadow and internship opportunities.

Our deepest investment is expanding the TCU College Advising Corps (TCU CAC) program which places recent TCU alumni in area high schools.

As recent college graduates, these advisers, many of whom attended these same high schools, are uniquely positioned to help low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students create a postsecondary plan post high school. The advisers become a part of their school’s community and help students take the necessary steps to realize their opportunities.

Effective Fall 2021, eligible T3 Scholars will receive a “last dollar” tuition-free scholarship to Tarrant County College toward their completion of a certificate or associate degree.

In addition, T3 will announce several exciting partnerships with four-year higher education institutions in the coming months.

Our mission is to help all students determine the pathway that matches their interests while leading to meaningful job placement in living-wage careers.

Ask yourself, can today’s talent pipeline sustain your workforce needs tomorrow?  Are we preparing students to work in your banks, your assembly lines, interface with your customers or to be your successor as CEO?

The T3 Partnership aims to help you answer those questions with a resounding yes, confidently preparing students for today’s rapidly changing economy.   

During Spring 2021, the T3 Partnership will launch mentorship opportunities, job shadow days, and internships focused on aligning individual efforts with those in the business community to change the future for our students. There’s a place for every community stakeholder to be a part of the solution. Whether you are a community/business leader, educator, or family member – we need you to champion student success.

We are focused on data driven decisions that lead to solutions.

The highest return on investment is education – for all kids, regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, economic status, or citizenship. “Clear Pathways. Bright Futures” – exceeds a tagline – it is a truth that everyone in our community needs to repeat, roll up our sleeves, and work together to achieve.

Mattie Parker is the CEO of Fort Worth Cradle to Career, a 501c3 – the Tarrant To & Through Partnership (T3) is the first pillar of work.  

Jay McCall is the Acting Executive Director of T3 and concurrently serves as program manager – education for the Rainwater Charitable Foundation.

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