How College Ready Are You?

Notes from the Backpack

Episode 11 │How College Ready Are You?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019



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Show Notes

Sekou Biddle
The college application process can be intense and complex—with many financial challenges for students and their families. If you’ve found yourself asking, “Does my child even have a fair chance at college? And given its cost, is a four-year degree even worth it?” you’re not alone. We sat down with Sekou Biddle, vice president of advocacy at the United Negro College Fund to get concrete strategies and essential information to help you find the path that’s right for your family. We also explored the student perspective by chatting with Nya, a junior at Old Dominion University, who shares how she managed the college process.


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Transcript (Disponible en Español)

Intro: Welcome to "Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast." This series features real conversations with real experts, real parents, and real educators so families can get the real behind the scenes story on what's happening in education. Get the inside scoop on how to help your child become successful in and out of school. As parents, we know that your child can sometimes forget to share the notes from their backpack that tell you everything that's happening at their school. That's why we've launched this podcast, just for you. Welcome to "Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast."

LaWanda: Welcome to "Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast." I'm your co-host LaWanda Toney, Director of Communications at National PTA.

Helen: Hi LaWanda and hi everyone. I am your co-host, Helen Westmoreland, Director of Family Engagement at National PTA.

LaWanda: So, today we are switching gears just a bit. We've discussed a lot of topics so far this season, but we haven't talked about college. I'm sure you're thinking, "College is so far away. I don't want to start thinking about that now." Trust me. Listen to today's episode. We're going to share some unique tricks, tips, and resources that you can start applying today. No matter your child's age.

Helen: You know, LaWanda, for many families getting their child into college can be pretty scary. Applying to college is often a time of intense pressure, confusion and financial hardship for both families and their kids. Parents' desperate attempts to secure a good college education for their child are also now in the spotlight as celebrities and the ultra-wealthy are making headlines for using their influence to gain that system.

So, it's no wonder that people are starting to ask, "Does my child even have a fair chance at college? And given its cost, is a four-year degree even worth it?" Before we turn to our expert guest, we're going to get the story straight from the horse's mouth, from a student that has gone through the process.

LaWanda: We spoke to Old Dominion University student, Nya about how she utilized the resources available at her high school. Nya's story made it clear that there's a lot to think about when it comes to choosing and paying for a college degree.

Nya: Hello. My name is Nya and I go to school at Old Dominion University. I am a junior here.

LaWanda: Nya is putting a lot of time, energy, effort, and money into getting a college degree. We asked her, why is college worth it to you?

Nya: You get a lot of experience here that you wouldn't get just jumping into your field. You get to learn it from people who have already been there. You get to get a lot of networking from people your own age and you get to live off on your own for once.

Helen: We also asked Nya, what advice do you have for students and their families as they try to figure out how to pay for college?

Nya: One very important thing that they did tell me was that when I was looking at all of my acceptance letters, to understand that these acceptance letters are not something that is promised every year and that they can change based on any type of factor. So, just know that the initial price of the school is something that you should be able to try to work around. Keep a lookout for scholarships, not just in the child's area but in theirs too, because I know that my mom looked in the job that she worked and they did have scholarships that could help their child out. So, it's always great to check on any organization, any place you're at because scholarships are everywhere and people aren't applying to them as much nowadays, so it's better to find every single one you can.

LaWanda: Nya, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. To help us better understand the college admissions process and how families are affected by access to education, we have with us Sekou Biddle of the United Negro College Fund, also known as UNCF. Sekou Biddle is the Vice President of Advocacy at UNCF. Leading the organization's efforts to ensure more African-American students are college-ready and better prepared to enroll in and complete college. Sekou has more than 20 years of experience in urban public education reform and as a former at-large member of the DC City Council. Sekou is also a former teacher and the father of two children, one in high school and one in college.

Helen: Sekou, thank you for joining us for this week's episode of Notes from the Backpack.

Sekou: Thanks for having me.

Helen: Before we get started, we wanted just to hear a little bit about you. What got you started in education and brought you to UNCF?

Sekou: Absolutely. Well, you know, I've spent the last right now 26 years in public education work. Now, honestly I started down this path when I was a college senior thinking about what could I do to deliver impact for my community and for the world and wanting to make sure that I didn't look back later in my career in life and feel like I hadn't done for other people, given how much I've been the beneficiary of other people's generosity and support. So, I got started as a classroom teacher. I was a Teach For America Corp member in the early 90s in New York City and then have spent the last 26 years as a classroom teacher, education, non-profit leadership, working with several organizations on a number of education issues including schools and early child education. And then I came to UNCF just over seven years ago to help UNCF really work on how do we help remove some of the barriers and obstacles that young people and in particular African-Americans are facing getting to college and successfully through it.

Helen: Can you tell us a little more about UNCF and why you go to work every day? What do you find really meaningful about working there?

Sekou: Well, you know, for 75 years UNCF has been working to improve opportunities and see to it that more young African-Americans go to college, and the world has changed a lot in 75 years. But the core building blocks of what we've done have really still continued to be important. So, we support a network of 37 private HBCUs around the country. We've done that since our inception in 1944. We also provide scholarships and internships for students who are attending college. We right now are second to the federal government in terms of support for young people going to college. We give out around a hundred-ish million dollars a year to students attending college as well as providing paid internship and fellowship support for lots of students on their professional development, on their path to careers while they're in college. And then we obviously advocate for the importance and need for college as well as federal government policies that help make college-going easier. And the Federal Government obviously is the huge lever on college opportunity through Pell Grants and also through other programs that support colleges directly. And we just think it's important to make sure that both those policies support college-going but also that we help raise the public's awareness of the need for and the opportunities out there for young people to attend college and to also help highlight the pathways to making that possible.

LaWanda: It's great that you're talking about the pathways because a lot of our listeners want to know, like, "When should I get started on my college journey with my child?" What do you suggest?

Sekou: I think the short answer to that is as soon as possible, the sooner the better. You know, because the work that you see people doing to help parents when their students are in high school, start navigating, those things are important. But you know, even just taking algebra in middle school puts students in a much firmer footing to being on a path toward college. So, the earlier the better, you know. And I think what I would advise most parents think about is keep as many options available for your children as possible because if they choose, you know, when they graduate from high school, that college isn't the thing they want to do today, that's okay. But it becomes much harder if they haven't gotten themselves college-ready in the years after high school than it is to get themselves college-ready while they're in middle and high school.

Helen: Could you talk a little bit more, Sekou, about some of those pathways? So, I think for many families, given the rising cost of college that, like, four-year degree can sometimes be six figures, which is really difficult for a lot of families and kids to figure out. How do you think about the value of college and some of those other pathways that families should be exploring with their kids?

Sekou: So, I think we have to be honest about the fact that the sticker shock that a lot of families undergo when they see the potential cost of college is very real. And to put it in practical terms, I mean, as you mentioned earlier, I've got a son in college right now. Twice a year, I have like minor heart palpitations, right? I'm serious.

Helen: When the bill comes?

Sekou: When I receive an email that says, you know, "This is what's due," and effectively, like, "We'd like our money next week. To put it in perspective, the cost of attending college has increased about 500% in the last 30 years. And so, when people are surprised at the prices, I mean, this is the challenge, many of us think about financing college through the lens of what we did when we went to school. And so, probably like a lot of people, you know, when I went to college I had some amount of loans, some amount my parents were able to pay and save the time, some amount I had in scholarships and some amount that I was able to cobble together through summer jobs and you know, work in the offseason.

But that got us there. And the challenge is that a lot of times, you know, the sticker price of college can be upwards of $60,000 to $70,000 a year for a young person. So, it's hard to see where split up in thirds or fourths, how you save those chunks or how you make those chunks working part-time. I think the value of post-secondary education is actually more valuable now than ever. The employment sector requires a higher level of knowledge and skill than ever before in this country. And so, I think we have to make sure people understand that that's the case. And then what is it a household can actually afford to pay for their child to go to college and what's the return they expect to see on that investment? Because you know, for a lot of young people, the high side might be as high as 70-plus thousand dollars a year all in to go to college.

But depending on your individual circumstances, the low side for any given student could be quickly close to zero. Everyone's circumstances are different but I think you have to carefully think through financing college. You need to be thinking about it the same way you think about buying a car, there's a huge range of price points for buying a car. You need to know what you need to get out of it. You know, if you just need something to get you to and from work and your kids to school every day, you can do that for, you know, $15,000, $20,000, you can also do that for $100,000. Most of us can't afford a $100,000 automobile and I think that's the challenge that a lot of parents have run into is not knowing sort of the range and price points, and that I think filters into not knowing how to use that to strategize how you apply. I would always advise parents to have an understanding of what the expected family contribution will be for your household because it differs for everyone. And then, you know, on the real price calculator that schools are required to have on their websites, get a sense of what you might have to pay to attend an institution.

LaWanda: Yeah, just a personal experience with my parents, they always taught us that we were going to college, but we never really talked about where we were going to college. They were just like, "Yeah, do great in school. You'll be able to go to school or you're going to college." Well, when I decided that I wanted to go to school here and go to Howard University, they're like, "Oh, well you didn't tell us that. I thought you were going to go to school locally, a state school, like we're not prepared for that." And we really had to have some serious conversations. It changed a lot. So, your point about the sticker shock is real and that was a long time ago.

Sekou: Yeah. But I think your point about, like, the conversations, I think this is hard, right? Because first of all, I think as a country we're not really socialized particularly well at having money conversations, you know, in families.

Helen: Absolutely.

Sekou: And I think we also generally tend to have fairly low financial literacy. It's just really important for parents to have real practical and perhaps challenging conversations with their children about college and what we think we can afford and what we're gonna value. Because I think there's a spectrum there about what families can afford to do. And I think you've got to give young people the opportunity to sort of think through, "Okay, if I want something that's above the price point that my household can afford, what am I prepared to take on in terms of loans? Or what am I prepared to do to make this work?" I think increasingly we're seeing young people piece together post-secondary degree to some combination of really, really low cost local community colleges getting either credential there or spending two years and then moving on to a four-year institution where they have an articulation agreement where you can take all the credit in coursework you've got so that you enter school for three years, you know, with two years of credit. And then you're only spending the full price at a more expensive institution for two years and coming out with the same degree.

LaWanda: Yeah. They even have those dual enrollment courses in high school where you can finish your high school diploma and your associate's degree.

Sekou: Yeah. And I think the dual enrollment, where you're getting course credit, AP, all those things where you can remove the overall number of courses you might have to take over the time that you're in college. I think one, it can push down the cost, but two, can actually create many more options for a young person. Because if you go to college and many of the required courses that students have to take are removed from the table because you got them through dual enrollment in high school or through AP, now what you're paying for are actually courses you really are choosing to want to take for your own professional growth. You know, and I think we shouldn't see college simply as like it's about you getting a job. I think there's a lot of personal development that goes on there and we do want people to go to college and learn things they might not have learned otherwise that will make them better, more well-rounded people that don't necessarily accrue specifically to, like, a job.

Helen: Sure. It's learning how to adult a little bit.

Sekou: Yeah.

Helen: Like you're out of your parents' home for the first time, for many kids, or commuting and you're responsible for getting yourself where you need to be and figuring out who your social circle is. Makes a lot of sense.

Sekou: Absolutely.

Helen: I'm curious a little bit, Sekou, you talked about taking advantage of some of the local resources in the community, whether it's dual college or AP courses, and I know your work with UNCF, a big piece of it is making sure everyone has a fair chance, right? To get into college. Could you talk a little bit with us and our listeners about the landscape of how fair really is the college application process and what are some of those things that are making it unfair or that local communities or parents could do to sort of get ahead of the curve?

Sekou: So, I think the fair question is a really interesting one. I think that because I work in an institution that works with a network of colleges and I have colleagues who've been in post-secondary work and admissions for years, I personally have a different perspective on how it works. And I think part of the challenge around the question of fair is that I think that most parents and most students don't have a fully-informed sense of how the college admission process works. Now, the scandal that you reference, right? We're talking about actual outright criminal activity, but I think that not far away from that is a whole series of entry points that exist for a lot of people that many applicants don't know are there. There was a recent report that was released where they said 43% of white students admitted to Harvard in the last year or so were legacies, children of donors, children of faculty and staff, recruited athletes and one other category.

And the thing is that when you do the math on that, you're talking about highly-selective institutions that already have a low admissions rate, but the publicly shared admissions rate doesn't tell you that almost half the slots that are available there are already off the board, but the average applicant doesn't know that, right? So, when a high school senior is applying to a school that's got a 6%, 7% admission rate, they're really thinking like, "Am I one of the kids who's going to get one of those 6%?" What they don't realize is actually by the time your application is being looked at, there's only 3% or 4% of spaces available. And I think that there are lots of things like that, that families, it would be helpful if they knew and understood because it would probably help them better benchmark a handicap the chances they have to get in.

But also I think it's important for them to recognize that many students have sort of unique qualities that make them better applicants for different institutions. And I don't think we always fully inform parents about that, you know? And so, I think sometimes, you know, we have to help parents understand like given that, what might be institutions that really want your child? And then you have to balance that with sometimes we also forget when an institution sends a large package, really incentivizing your student to attend their institution, one thing is true, the institution knows that it's to their benefit for your child to attend their school. The question the children and the parents have to answer is, "Is this the best fit and opportunity for me?" And I think that what you need to be deciding is, "What's a great school for me?" Or, "What's a great school for my child?" In a lot of cases, this is a place you're going to live for four years and so you need to investigate whether or not it's a community and organization you want to be a part of for four years because if not, that can be a really tough row to hoe.

LaWanda: And, how do parents go about finding out that type of information? Finding out about the percentage of students that are going to be selected to be a part of this university or college.

Sekou: So, I think there are a couple of places I would point them to. So one, there are actually a lot of really good tools that the college guidance counselors at high schools have these days that we didn't have when we were growing up. And I know that, you know, my son's school, one of the prevalent tools, Naviance is a great tool. That really helps because what it's able to do is actually tell you students from your school who applied to these schools and it can do a scattergram based on GPA and SAT, ACT scores, what students like you...because that's really the best reference point is. Whether or not students like you from your high school are getting in and what are sort of the thresholds of scores they need to have to help them get in. So, that's hugely important. You know, there are lots of great tools online, has some great stuff. College Board has got some really good tools as well to sort of help families better look at what are the thresholds of GPAs and other sort of things the schools are looking for to help you figure out, like, "Is this a school that I'm likely to get into?"

And then the other thing I've mentioned earlier is the real price calculator that's on the school's website is really important, because I would advise all parents it's worth your while to have a sense of what are we likely to have to pay at each of the schools that my child's applying for. Because I think there's value in having some diversity of price points one year on the other side of okay now we're making a decision which school to commit to. But if all of them present the same price point, you've removed that dimension from the table. I mean, I can tell you from my own perspective, my son is in college now, like, we had the range from zero to full price available. And you know, it gives you lots of things to think about, but I think it can also help you feel better about the decision you're making because you know, like, okay if cost is really the driver here, we've got an answer for that. If something else is the driver, like, we can attend for that. And there's things, you know, like in our lives there are lots of things that we pay for every day that there are free options available, but we valued enough to pay this price for.

LaWanda: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Can you talk a little bit about your college process with your family? Because I think a lot of our listeners want to know, like, does the child really have a say in it if I'm paying?

Helen: Like, this is a family engagement challenge, like, who's in the driver's seat and how do you negotiate that?

LaWanda: The reason why I asked is because my nephew and my sister have gone through this where he's like, "I want to go to school in Miami." "Why do you want to go to school in Miami?" "Because I want to be by the beach and we live in Seattle and I want to be warm for once in my life." And it's like, no, you're not doing...we don't know anyone in Miami. What are you talking about? You don't even know what you want to major in." So, who makes the decision? Because he thinks, "I'm the one going to college, I should be making the decision." She's like, "I'm holding the purse strings so I should be making the decision."

Sekou: Right. So, both those things are true. Yes. So, I think the short answer to who's in the driver's seat is a hard parenting dilemma. Because the short answer from my perspective in the process that we navigated in our household is that you take turns, right? Any parent out there that's actually taught their child to drive, knows the experience of, like, it's easier to talk about them driving than it is to sit in the passenger seat and have them actually drive. And I think, you know, the dialogue you just talked about is really important, I mean, we had a lot of that, like, "What is it you want? And then what are we as parents doing to help inform that?" I mean, the number of colleges we visited...and we benefit from living in a place like DC where there are lots of colleges and universities here and in the region. So, we visited a lot of schools and, to be honest with you, we visited them for all sorts of factors like, you know, "What kind of physical campus are you interested in?" Like, those things matter.

And so, the more urban campus, more suburban, rural. Like, we visited a lot of schools because it helped us in our process for my son to take things off the board. Like, okay, "I visited a school that has a downtown urban campus, I didn't like it." Then you can immediately remove an entire group of schools from the list because you said, "That's not the experience I want to have." The challenge is, you know, we know our children and, you know, college is a great opportunity for them to get out into the world and experience new things and so they're going to put those things on the table. And, you know, we as parents have to manage it and ask them questions. I think this is the hard part rather than slamming the door or no on everything, ask questions to get to the root of, like, "Why is it that you want this thing or that thing?" which is time-consuming but I found for us to be really, really important because my son started out with things that he wanted about a school that included, like, the campus life experience, like wanting to be able to attend sporting events. That seemed like that would be a fun part of college. Like, "Okay, like, sure. Like, I don't know that you should make a decision based solely on that, but that's an important factor." Like, he wanted a sort of old look and feel.

There are lots of those around, but it helps to remove some options from the table. Like, "Okay, we don't need to explore this any further because you're not interested in that." And I think that's hard and I think one of the many things the internet has done for us is it's made some of that easier and now it's also made it harder because once young people take SAT and ACT and they start to get bombarded by schools reaching out to them, but at least online now students can actually do virtual tours that give them, like, you can get a pretty good sense and look of like...

Helen: That's a good resource.

Sekou: ...what's the look and feel of this place? Is that something I want to do or not? Which I think is hugely helpful because most parents are time and resource-constrained on doing visits. I think visits are hugely important, but there's only so many other things you can do. I mean, it's just a certain number of hours in the day. And I think I've told my friends, like, look for schools where if you go visit a particular campus it will help your child get a sense for, there's an entire basket of schools that are like this, so if you don't like this one we should probably take these off. But if you do like this, we keep these things in the mix. But it's a tough one because you're right, like, ultimately if I'm going to be the one paying, the middle ground there I think for us was we're going to be the ones paying, you have to be committed to this is what you really want to do, and we have to find a middle ground there that works for everyone.

My son's situation was a little bit unique because he was a recruited student-athlete. That actually, for our situation, helped us because it removed a bunch of schools from the mix because there were schools that didn't have Division 1 men's soccer that he wanted to do. So, we knew that we weren't going to consider those places. But I think sometimes families and students need to actually look for factors to disqualify schools because in the era we currently live in, access to information electronically is so great that...speak for myself, but when I was a student, like, the schools you knew about, you read about on something that was on paper, whether it was a book in the counselor's office or the library or something...

Helen: Or you knew someone that went there.

Sekou: Right. Or something that came in the mail, you know, you fill out a card and send it to them...

LaWanda: You mailed off for the brochure, yes.

Sekou: And they sent the package to you, like... Now, once your information gets into the hands of the colleges and the recruiters, like, I know my son grappled with this. Like, you start getting incoming email and other correspondence, it just overwhelms you. I mean, there were times where he really struggled with, "Okay, I don't even know if I could spend enough time learning about each and every school that I'm hearing about to know whether to consider them or not."

Helen: Yeah. I wanna ask a little bit since you've put on your parent expert hat, but you're an advocacy expert too, and I think for many of our listeners, they're interested not only in their own child's perspective but some of that bigger political conversation. It's a little, honestly, hard to track sometimes at the federal level. So, I want to ask you, if you could create the perfect sort of policy system to make college both fair and affordable for families, what do you think are the big things we as a country should be doing?

Sekou: Yeah. So, I think we've gotta take on affordability as an issue. I mean, the challenge we're facing right now is, as I mentioned earlier, I think there are ways for everyone to find and make it affordable, but the affordability and the increasing cost is reducing options for people who have less financial means. And that to me sort of makes it inherently unfair because you're looking at families who are getting squeezed where okay, they could still make a goal of going to college, but so many of the options are removed from the table for their child. It seems patently unfair that a household's income is going to determine whether or not their child has access to certain types of options. So, I think part of that is, you know, what's been going on with Pell and sort of keeping the buying power of federal supports for students concurrent with actual cost.

I mean, costs continue to increase, but the supports for students both in terms of grants, scholarships and loans have not kept pace. And so, their purchasing power for all those things have diminished. I think we got to look at how we increase those things. You know, some of this is at the state level where states have sort of...cyclically when economies have turned down, have pulled back from investing in post-secondary education and when the economies turn back up, they haven't reinvested the amount of money they had in it before. So, then the individuals' households are owning more and more of the costs of going to college now than in the past and I think that makes it hard. I think we've got to really interrogate whether or not there's a better way to do that. I mean, I don't think that we should make college something that's necessary but increasingly unaffordable for young people.

Helen: It's so true. States tools used to be one of your best values for college.

Sekou: Correct.

Helen: And they're very expensive now in a lot of places.

Sekou: Yeah, they are very expensive and they still are most people's best value, but still it's creeping further and further away from what most people would consider to be affordable on an annual basis. I mentioned this real price calculator several times, it's an important thing because it's federally mandated in part because the belief that transparency around cost is important I think is right. If people believe something cost $60,000, there's a lot of people who believe, "I can't afford it." But if they believe that thing that says 60 actually is more likely to cost 30 for me, it seems more accessible and attainable. I think we've got to do a better job making sure the public understands that so that people realize like, "What am I actually expected to pay here so that I know what I can consider or not?" I mean, for a lot of households in this country, the sticker price of going to college is larger than the household income.

And you know, we have to, I think, help those households realize that that's actually not the number they should be focused on, because when they see that number, oftentimes college dreams just get destroyed. And I think that, you know, what we know from our research is that, overwhelmingly, college-going is what young people and their parents want for them. And so, we've got to help remove the barriers. And I think, you know, thirdly, the other sort of policy thing I think would be important would be for communities to sort of help fill the knowledge gap on the need for post-secondary education as it accrues to, like, people's career pathways. Because there's a lot out there that you might not need a four-year college degree to do, but you are going to need something more than a high school diploma. And I think that without making clear to people, "Here are the different tiers of educational attainment, and here's the, like, prospects," I mean, I think conveying to people something as simple as college graduates will make $1,000,000 more in their career than high school graduates.

It's just an important, like, data point for people to consider, like, "If you're convinced that you shouldn't be going to college or that your child doesn't need to go to college, make sure that you're able to reconcile, like, why you believe that. Like, what's out there for you," because this question of, you know, I think every real study or story I've read about, you know, "College, is it worth it?" sort of comes back to the same answer, like, "Yes, it is if you can afford it." So, the trick is really how do we help make college affordable for everybody who wants to go? And I think that it's possible, but we're going to still have to continue to work on policy levers to keep it possible and to help people believe that it's possible.

LaWanda: I love that you talked about making college possible when people think that it's impossible, and I think that's, like, the crux of the work that you do at UNCF. Can you talk about something that you're most proud of with the work there?

Sekou: Oh, yeah. You know, I think for the work that we do, one, it's seeing the power that removing some of the financial obstacles for young people provides in terms of opening up the pathway and the opportunity to college for them. Because for many of our students, particularly at our member institutions, we still serve a lot of first-generation college-goers. And when you see, you know, what happens when a young person goes to college, one, what you see is once somebody in a family goes to college, it tends to influence across the generation and then subsequent generations, right? Like here's cousins, nephews start going and then subsequent generations and families go. And then you hear about, you know, the career pathways a young people are on and we were actually just last night talking about some of the participants in one of our fellowship programs and what they're doing now early in their careers. Like, it makes it clear that this thing that post-secondary education can do both on the educational front of giving you knowledge and skills you need but then one of you mentioned earlier, just the degree to which it can create and open up people's social network so that they know more in different people that can open doors and create opportunities for them.

And I think in a lot of cases, going to college opens the world up for a young person that some of them didn't even know existed. And I think it's hard to put a price on that even though we talked a lot about the price of college. I think the impact of it is significant. So, I think what I'm most proud of is that we have solved for this for so many young people and I think given lots of people hope and example on a path that's there, and then you know, opportunities like this obviously to talk to a broader audience about how it can be possible for their children. Because I do think, you know, back to the policy question, I think that if more parents demanded that their elected and appointed leaders took responsibility for making college-going possible and accessible for them, we could change things. I think that just sometimes people throw up their hands and lose hope and take their hands off the levers that they have to make change happen.

Helen: That's very powerful. Thank you for sharing. We have talked about some amazing things, so thank you for joining us here. Before we go, we do want to ask you, Sekou, if there's sort of one thing you could leave in the minds or hearts of our listeners, families and their kids, especially, what sort of the one takeaway you really want them to have from today's conversation?

Sekou: I think the one takeaway from today is, you know, investing in the educational social development of young people is hugely important. We've talked specifically about college and four-year college today and I believe that's important. It's had a transformational impact on so many Americans for a hundreds of hundreds of years. But I think the most important point there is that it is just important and valuable to invest in young people's development. You know, for those of us that are parents, knowing that that's important and necessary for our children, just continue to be persistent about finding a way to make it happen. And so, whether or not that's a four-year college degree or an associate's degree or certificate program that puts them on a path to knowing the kinds of things they need to know to walk into a good job and into a career is just vitally important. And you know, I would say tied to that, that college isn't gonna look the same for everyone, but you can't go wrong by investing in sort of the growth and development of the mind and spirit of a young person.

LaWanda: Sekou, what are your social media handles and where can listeners go to learn more about you and your work?

Sekou: So, at UNCF's social media, you can reach us at @UNCF as our Twitter handle and you can find everything else from there. You can find me at @sekoubiddle. And you can learn more about our work at At, you can find out more about the work we have. Lots of resources there online for any and all people who are looking forward to the college journey. In fact, we've got a resource online in getting into college and readiness checklist. I think it's helpful for anyone who wants to know more about the path, the process, and has links to other resources that would be helpful to all parents.

Helen: That's great. Thank you again, Sekou for joining us.

Sekou: Thank you.

Helen: And to everyone listening in, thank you also for joining us today. Please keep the conversation going by using #backpacknotes on social media, and we hope you tune in next time.

Outro: Thank you for tuning in to "Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast." Be sure to follow us on social media @nationalpta and online at


Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast is made possible by funding to advance family engagement and whole child learning through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.