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MCC joins national effort to close achievement gaps for single moms Kartha

Over the next six years, Monroe Community College hopes to have a better understanding of how to help single mothers stay in school and earn their degrees.

MCC is one of four community colleges chosen nationally to take part in an initiative with the nonprofit Education Design Lab.

Single mothers make up about 10 percent of MCC's student population. Fifty-four percent of MCC students who are parents of either gender drop out before they graduate.

Single mothers face some unique challenges, according to MCC research specialist Mary Ann DeMario.

"They are a paradox," she said. "They come into MCC academically unprepared, meaning that they have to take high school-level courses before they can take college-level courses. However, they end their first semester here with higher grades than our nonparents, but then three years later, we've lost them. They've left MCC and haven't enrolled anywhere else."

DeMario will be leading the project locally. She said it will involve more than simply collecting data and statistics about students who are single moms.

"We meet with them in person," she explained. "We really try to really understand their point of view. We put ourselves in their shoes and we design programs and services for them, and then access their productivity soon after. We keep doing this until we get something in place that we know is going to work for these moms."

The first phase of the project will be devoted to planning. DeMario expects strategies to be in place by fall 2020.

The overall goal of the initiative is to raise graduation rates for single mothers by 30 percent by 2024.

Other schools taking part in the project are Central New Mexico Community College in Albequerque, Degaldo Community College in New Orleans, and Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.