Roundtable Director of Advancement and Operations Thomas Butler, left, with Temple University College of Education Dean Gregory M. Anderson, shown here at the two-day Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable conference at St. Joseph’s University

Roundtable Director of Advancement and Operations Thomas Butler, left, with Temple University College of Education Dean Gregory M. Anderson, at the two-day Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable conference at St. Joseph’s University. Photo by Abdul Sulayman/Chief Tribune Photographer.

The Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable’s seventh annual professional development conference, a two–day symposium designed to discuss ways to increases academic success for grade school students and to prepare them to succeed once they reach college, kicked off on Monday at St. Joseph’s University.

Opening events included a keynote address given by college completion expert Antoinette Torres, and a networking luncheon speech by Temple University Dean of Students Gregory Anderson, Ph.D.

Thomas Butler, the roundtable director of operations and advancement, said goals for this year’s conference are to continue to strengthen the college access and success community by providing quality professional development to those who provide college preparation services as well as center the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable as a viable and useful resource to students, schools, and programs.

Butler, who also spoke during the welcoming presentation in advance of the Torres’ keynote, elaborated on the thrust and purpose of the conference shortly after Anderson’s keynote address.

“The roundtable network is a large network, and Philadelphia [being in the network] has a lot of programs that are both in school and out of school that are serving students, getting them ready for college — and adults as well, who are going on to higher education,” Butler said. “The roundtable primarily exists as an advocate for those who have less information than others about not only getting into college, but completion as well.

“This conference serves as professional development for those doing this work,” he added. “They are the community folk, church folk, community–based organizations, our fraternities and sororities.”

Butler said the conference is for those stakeholders to learn new methods on reaching students that otherwise may have encountered academic and financial cracks on their path to college.

One of those obstacles, Butler said, is understanding how financial aid works.

“Understanding how to access financial aid is tough [for many students], so having he right information and right resources is important," Butler said. "And we may be able to take them through some [financial aid] doors they may have not known about.”

It’s not only financial aid that could present an obstacle - college preparedness and retention also go a long way toward post secondary education successes.

“Academic preparation is key; I can get anyone into college — I know how to do that,” Butler said. “What is important is the student’s ability to do the academic work once they are there. Torres spoke to some very specific data regarding of students having the right academic preparedness, but lacked the deep, core content.

"For example, many students going to college are required to take college calc [calculus], but they aren’t college calc–ready," he added. "They thought they were ready, and it grated on their ego [to get lower-than-expected grades], and they leave school because they haven’t done as good as they thought. So we talk to students and their families to get them to really understand that colleges have very high expectations.”

Contact staff writer Damon C. Williams at (215) 893-5745, dwilliams@phillytrib.com or on Twitter @DCW

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