Amy Potthast | Instructional Coach & Designer | Learning Design Studios

Emerging Corps: Blue Engine’s Nick Ehrmann

In the spring of 201o, The New Service podcast show featured a service program tackling the challenges of college completion for students from low income families. 

At that time, a new national service corps was getting off the ground. Blue Engine, based in New York City, recruits a corps of about a dozen fellows for the school year to facilitate daily, differentiated, small-group instruction for high school freshmen.

My guest was Nick Ehrmann—Blue Engine’s engine and a Teach For America alum— who says that we know how to get high-needs kids into college, or getting them “college eligible” — nonprofits and schools have been targeting and tackling hurdles like high school completion, college admissions, and financial assistance.

But, while the high school drop-out problem is far from solved, we haven’t mastered getting these same youth through college. Groups are paying far less attention to college completion rates for high-needs kids, or to “college readiness.”

Blue Engine aims to close the gap between college eligibility and college readiness.

After graduating from Northwestern University in 2000, Ehrmann began his career in education as a Teach for America corps member in Washington D.C. In 2002, he joined forces with local philanthropists to launch the nonprofit “I Have a Dream” Project 312, a youth development program for Nick’s fourth-grade students. In the fall of 2003, he began doctoral work in sociology at Princeton University as a William G. Bowen fellow.

For three years, Nick spent months shadowing his former students in high school classrooms, living with their families, and conducting extensive interviews in the local community, where he has witnessed firsthand the negative effects of academic underperformance on the transition from high school to college.

I chatted with Nick about the Blue Engine fellowship; the gap between college eligibility and true college readiness; and why it’s crucial to expect more out of high schoolers in order to prepare them for high school and college success, and beyond.

Download the show here.

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