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Nazareth partners with PeerForward to bring first generation students to and through college

Published June 02, 2022

Several hundred high school students from more than 70 schools across the country, including the Rochester, New York area, are heading to Nazareth College this summer, July 11-31, for a life-changing experience intended to guide more young people to and through college. Nazareth is teaming up for a new partnership with PeerForward, a national nonprofit organization that uses an engaging peer-to-peer model to guide students in under-resourced schools to pursue four-year college degrees.

The PeerForward workshops provide transformative training so that young leaders can inspire and assist their friends, as well as themselves, to pursue higher education. Through this method, PeerForward will connect 122,000 low-income students to post-secondary success over the next four years.

With shared missions to address educational equity and social mobility, PeerForward and Nazareth College are partnering to address the critical role of education in achieving social progress. They know the fight for educational equity is far from over, but PeerForward and Nazareth College believe by looking at students as problem solvers, not problems to be solved, participating students will drive the systemic change needed, while working to ensure their classmates stay on track to a degree. 

Only 16 percent of students in low-income communities graduate college by age 24, and there is a concerning COVID-era decline in low-income youth enrolling in higher education. PeerForward CEO Gary Linnen emphasizes the urgency to act now. “If there is ever a time to come together, to tap into the potential of our young people in the face of our nation’s challenges, today is the day!” said Linnen. “Our PeerForward teams can increase the college counseling capacity of low-income high schools and make higher education the expectation, not the exception.”

PeerForward is well-established as a national leader in working with students who may not otherwise consider college an option. In its 25-year history, PeerForward has guided more than 400,000 students on the path to higher education. Of workshop attendees, 80% enroll in college.

For the first time, PeerForward will train on Nazareth’s campus — a consistent home for all three sessions of its workshops, instead of PeerForward moving to various locations. 

“Students helping students get to college is an amazing concept created and realized by PeerForward, and Nazareth College is ‘all in’ to help play a part in that success,” said Frank Williams, Nazareth College vice president for strategic enrollment management. “PeerForward’s mission to unleash the power of positive peer influence to transform the lives of youth living in low-income communities aligns with Nazareth’s commitment to first generation and other underrepresented college students, and we are partnering with PeerForward to connect students to college and careers.” 

With the motto “4 days, 4 years, 4 life,” the rigorous workshop is the introductory Peer leader training for rising high school seniors from eight states — New York, Michigan, Maryland, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, and California — and Washington, D.C. Each student will live on Nazareth College’s campus to learn the ins and outs of the admissions process, create a college list, draft a personal essay, and learn about financial aid. Students, along with an adult advisor from each school, also learn how to teach and inspire their classmates by applying the fundamentals of community organizing.

Peer leaders then return to their high schools, train junior peer leaders, and create three campaigns to run throughout the academic year, designed to improve chances for postsecondary enrollment:

  • Apply to three or more higher education institutions
  • Apply early for financial aid
  • Make the connection between academics, careers, and community
For More Information

Julie Long | Senior News & PR Officer | | (585) 389-2456 | (585) 781-8186 (cell)

Nazareth University is an inclusive community of inspired learners, educators, and changemakers who for nearly 100 years have been driven by a bold commitment to action, empathy, equity, and leading innovation for the common good. Impact experiences are at the heart of a Nazareth education, preparing each student to discover within themselves the potential to cultivate positive change in their life's work, in any career field, and in a world that is constantly evolving and infinitely interconnected.

Our broad academic offerings present a range of study options typical of larger universities, yet achieved in our supportive campus culture. Nearly 2,100 undergrad and 600 graduate students enroll in degree and certificate programs and engage in collaborative, transformative learning experiences, preparing for the professions and society of today and tomorrow. In a learning community that purposefully integrates liberal arts and professional programs, Nazareth University graduates are able to launch a lifetime of impactful leadership in communities and workplaces near and far.

PeerForward is a successful national peer-to-peer model that trains high school students to be college-ready and help their fellow students do the same.