Concept College participant Julia EcclesJulia Eccles has always struggled with school.

Julia’s learning disability was diagnosed when she started pre-K. Her teacher noticed that she had trouble following along with the curriculum and moved her into a class that gave her specialized attention.

She had an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) throughout school. She still struggled with test anxiety and suffered from low self-esteem. But Julia was lucky to have teachers and mentors who helped her push past her problems and excel in school.

Despite raising her grades at Wiregrass Ranch High School, Julia still did not see herself going to college because of her past struggles in school. That changed when she received an invitation from the Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) Foundation to participate in the college’s Concept College program.

About Concept College

Concept College started in 2004 to provide an opportunity for high school and middle school students in Pasco and Hernando counties who are considered “at risk” or “not college bound” to envision higher education as a possibility.

The students visit PHSC on a two-day Concept College trip to learn about college and explore the certificate and degree programs available to them. During the visit, students learn how the college admissions process works, and how financial aid can help cover the cost of college, which is a major hurdle for many of the kids who attend. The Concept College program’s leaders advise students on how to receive scholarships and when to start applying for college.

The Concept College program at PHSC helps more than 450 students each year discover a pathway to higher education that can allow them reach their full potential. Four out of five students who participate report that Concept College increased their interest in attending college. And about one in three participants enrolls in PHSC.

Success for Julia and others

Julia is one of those students. After her exposure to PHSC during Concept College, she was inspired to apply and was accepted. She started at PHSC with a 2.69 GPA and graduated with an associate degree and a 4.0 GPA. Julia is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in education at the University of South Florida. She wants to become an elementary school teacher to help students who are struggling– like her teachers did with her.

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay invests in the Concept College program because it increases college access and educational attainment. It supports two key focus areas for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay: increasing economic mobility and ensuring that Tampa Bay has a globally competitive workforce.