Phoenix Collegiate Academy: College for All

Graduates posing for a picture

Rachel Yanof’s Phoenix Collegiate Academy is taking to college students who never thought it was possible.
Image: Shutterstock

Seven years ago, Rachel Yanof was a door-to-door recruiter. She walked the streets of south Phoenix neighborhoods in the Arizona heat–not to make a sale or pitch a pyramid scheme, but to look for students. She and her staff worked hard to connect with parents in those neighborhoods, where students were mostly poor and Hispanic.

What she had to offer was a new school. Yanof, the young administrator at a brand new charter school, pitched it as a rigorous environment with high standards and higher goals. Students would wear uniforms, sign contracts that they would complete their homework, take extra courses in math and writing, and read vigorously.

And they would go to college. That was Yanof’s promise to every sixth grader and each of their parents: every one of her students would go to college.

Now, seven years later, her promise has come true. Phoenix Collegiate Academy’s first class of seniors has just graduated, and each of them, all twenty-five, has applied to college and been accepted. Between them they’ve also received 50 scholarships at a total of over $200,000 and counting.

Twenty-three of the twenty-five will be the first person in their families to attend college.

In 2015, the rate of students going directly into college from high school was a little less than 60%, and it trends much lower in neighborhoods like those from which Yanof recruited. And in this digital age, more and more entry level jobs require a four-year degree. Yanof and her staff have worked hard–as hard as their students–and the success was visible on every face as those young men and women crossed the stage to get their diploma, each accompanied by a loved one, and each with the name of their future college on their lips.