Two Dallas Teachers Needed Money for a College Tour, so the Internet Hooked Them Up

Sometimes the Internet is excessively dumb, like yesterday when half of Twitter was announcing #NowThatchersDead and the other half was heartbroken because they thought it was #NowThatChersDead. And other times the Internet can be pretty heartwarming.

A good example of the heartwarming Internet is Thomas C. Marsh Middle School's College Tour, an online fundraising campaign that wrapped up a few days ago. More than 150 people donated over $15,000 to send 20 seventh- and eighth-grade students on a tour of nine colleges in Texas and Oklahoma to help them learn how to make college more accessible, and they used Crowdtilt, a crowd-sourcing site founded by a Dallasite, to make it happen.

Marsh's tour is remarkable because the students on the trip would all be the first in their families to attend college. It began last year as the brainchild of two Teach for America teachers at Marsh who were looking for a way to help their students beyond basic classroom instruction. So Will Cullen and Courtney Isaak concoted the Roadmap to College Program, and took more than 50 future first-generation college students and 35 parents to nine colleges and universities across Texas.

Cullen and Isaak both completed their two-year commitment to TFA, and Cullen has stayed on at Marsh to teach seventh-grade English. Cullen says he's continuing the tour with Sean Planchard, a current TFA member teaching eighth-grade social studies at Marsh, and this year they're making things more rigorous. They're only taking around 20 students, and there are 35 competing for those slots. To make sure they get the most serious students, they will qualify based on their coursework in an after-school program Cullen and Planchard are running. On Fridays.

"It shows dedication," Cullen says.

A student graduating from DISD has about a 15 percent chance of graduating from college. One of the focuses of the tour is to help students plan out their high school careers to best prepare them to get into college and get through it. In a recent NPR interview, Stanford University economics professor Caroline Hoxby describes her research college opportunities for low-income students. She found that the basic problem with low application rate for low-income students to top-tier universities was a matter of bad marketing or misinformation. When the students were supplied with information about application and tuition processes, they were much more likely to enroll and get into schools with higher graduation rates.

This year's tour will visit Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, TCU, Trinity University and University of Texas at Arlington.

Though they met their CrowdTilt goal, there's still about $3,500 left to raise. If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation, you can mail checks to:

Roadmap to College Program Attn: Will Cullen 3838 Crown Shore Dr. Dallas, TX, 75244

Make checks payable to T.C. Marsh Middle School, with "Roadmap to College Program" in the memo line.

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Luke Darby
Contact: Luke Darby