College and Career

Pathways System

Initiative: Reaching Higher

Reaching Higher

The HEA Reaching Higher Initiative encourages middle school students from minority, low-income, and first-generation populations to pursue education beyond a high school diploma. Reaching Higher helps students and parents understand how to pay for education and access financial aid opportunities such as 21st Century Scholars.

Reaching Higher

The Challenge

In Elkhart County, only 25% of adults hold an associate’s degree or higher. Parents who do not have a post-secondary degree often struggle to understand the options available for their children. Many students assume post-secondary education is limited to 4-year degree programs. They do not know 2-year degree and certificate programs can also lead to meaningful career opportunities.

Students often lack adequate information about programs during middle school and high school that can make a post-secondary education more accessible and affordable.

The Solution

Reaching Higher encourages students to work hard to be academically prepared for high school and college. It helps students make connections between the choices they make in high school and their future livelihoods.

By engaging parents, Reaching Higher helps students and parents work as a family to make a plan for post-secondary education. Dual Credit and Early College High School can help make post-secondary education more attainable and affordable.


Reaching Higher is implemented in seven middle schools in Elkhart County with support from local post-secondary institutions and the Elkhart Area Career Center.

Indicators of Success

Based on pre- and post-surveys of students, students have increased their awareness of high school programs. The percent of students who report they are likely to participate in these programs has also increased.

Students responded they learned some or a lot about…


The importance of completing high school: 95%


The importance of education after high school: 94%


Financial Aid could be available for going to college: 74%


The requirements for college acceptance: 80%


Education levels needed for different types of careers: 74%


Skill types needed for future college and career success: 83%

Parents reported the following…


Feeling “more confident” their child will be prepared for his/her future education and career: 76%


Learned a lot about the importance of their child continuing education after high school: 84%


Learned a lot about the importance of education for their child’s future career: 78%

Reaching Higher

Contact Information

John Hutchings
(574) 849-6154

Reaching Higher History with HEA

The Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) at Goshen College provided funding for the design of Reaching Higher with school counselors from two school districts: Elkhart Community Schools and Goshen Community Schools. Funds supported students who might not traditionally be “college-bound” or aspire to post-secondary education. Each middle school had flexibility with designing the program to best meet the needs of their students. All the programs include events for parents and students to learn about post-secondary education options and college visits for students.

The program has increasingly integrated information about opportunities available to students in high school and has broadened to focus on both college and career readiness.

The program expanded to include three additional school districts

Seven public middle schools in Elkhart County (representing five school districts) participated in Reaching Higher, reaching approximately 600 students: 200 7th-graders and 400 8th-graders.

Students participated in one of nine field trips to either the Elkhart Area Career Center or an area institution of higher education (Bethel College, Indiana University at South Bend). Event presentations included those provided by Early College student panels, Elkhart Area Career Center, 21st Century Scholars program, college admissions officers, and motivational speakers.