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Questions & Answers – Margaret Fortune

Students from The Fortune School experience hands-on science in Cal Poly's Learn by Doing Lab.

In March, dozens of 10- and 11-year-olds from the Fortune School got a head start on thinking about college with a special visit to Cal Poly. The Fortune School is a K-8 charter school system focused on closing the achievement gap for African-American students in Sacramento and San Bernardino — in part with a series of college visits to institutions including Stanford, Berkeley and UCLA. Fortune School CEO Margaret Fortune told us where Cal Poly fits into this project.


Margaret Fortune

How do your students interact with Cal Poly?
All fifth-grade scholars across our system visit Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing science lab as part of their curriculum. Cal Poly faculty craft experiences in the lab that will help bolster the students’ skills where they’re struggling through hands-on science activities.It’s part of building a college-going culture on our elementary school campus.

Why is that culture so important this early?
Studies show that if students visit a college early as children, they’re more likely to become college students themselves. So we take our students on a college field lesson each year starting in kindergarten. It becomes not an issue of whether they’re going to college, but which college they’re going to.

What challenges do your students face in their education?
In Sacramento and San Bernardino counties where we do our work, African-American students are the lowest performing subgroup in the K-12 public school system. We’re rolling it back to the very beginning starting in kindergarten and saying, “Let’s do this right.” Because of our focus on rigorous academics and a college-going culture, the students in the Fortune School are high-performing. We’ve exceeded the state goal of 800 on our academic performance index in our school system.

What makes Cal Poly a good fit for this program?
Cal Poly is a campus that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, which is of interest to our students, and it’s prestigious. I’m a trustee of the California State University system, so I have an opportunity to get a deep inside look at all 23 CSU campuses. Jeff Armstrong’s commitment to diversity was something that impressed me. Given my work to prepare competitively eligible African-American students for college, Cal Poly is a natural fit.

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