DCAN pilots free ACT prep


Jeff Danna 
Communications Manager 

For immediate release 

DUBUQUE, Iowa — With graduation not far off, Hempstead High School junior Ronesha McClellan is considering what she will do after high school — and her decision depends a lot on the upcoming ACT, which she plans on taking.  

Fortunately, she has some help preparing thanks to the Dubuque College Access Network (DCAN), which is piloting a free ACT preparation course. 

"No one ever really tells you what to expect from the ACT in terms of questions that will be on it, so having the ACT prep is a relief in terms of being prepared,” McClellan says. "Taking the ACT is really important to me because it helps me know what my options are after high school, and the better I do on the ACT, the more options I will have!" 

DCAN, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, is offering the free test preparation opportunity this February to at least two dozen Dubuque high school juniors to support those who might otherwise not be able to afford it or not take the exam. 

“Taking the ACT offers an opportunity for students to qualify for scholarships and financial aid, which can be the difference between pursuing education and training after high school or not,” says DCAN Coordinator, Donna Loewen. “Preparing for the exam increases the chances that students will perform their best and score well.” 

Students who qualify for the free test preparation will receive access to a full curriculum from Doorway to College, including a workbook and web-based course. They also will have the option of being paired with a “guide on the side,” a local adult, such as a guidance counselor, teacher or mentor, who will work with them throughout the prep period. 

The free test preparation is made possible by a $5,000 gift from Woodward Communications Foundation. Dubuque's Telegraph Herald newspaper is a division of Woodward Communications and has committed to taking steps to address diversity, equity and inclusion issues in ways that are impactful and sustainable. The contribution also includes in-kind support for students, such as college essay writing assistance from newspaper staff. 

“The TH has created a seven-person Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committe, chaired by TH Executive Editor Amy Gilligan, with internal and external goals of improving recruitment, internal education, external contributions (both cash and in-kind), and increased community content,” says Publisher Bob Woodward. "Our initial contribution attention is on high school students, and we are happy to partner with DCAN since this project dovetails nicely with our goals and focus." 

DCAN includes representatives from Dubuque’s schools, nonprofits, business community and government. Together, they aim to increase access to post-secondary education and training for historically underrepresented students, including student of color, those from low-income backgrounds, and those who would be the first in their families to attend college. 

As part of its strategic initiative to increase college enrollment, the Dubuque Community School District, a DCAN partner, is offering the opportunity on March 3 for all high school juniors to take an exam that aligns with their post-high school plans. The ACT, Accuplacer, ALEKS and ASVAB will all be available; DCAN’s pilot offering most closely aligns with the ACT. The free test preparation is one way to encourage more students to take the exam. 

“We know that taking a post-secondary exam is one step in helping students unlock the wide range of future opportunities available to them,” says Julie Lange, director of digital literacy for the Dubuque Community School District. “Our new Pave the Way Testing Day removes any barrier of cost in taking an exam and, with the help of a partner like DCAN, will allow us to highlight the many pathways available after graduation. We are excited to see this strategic priority come to life.” 

For more information about DCAN or the free ACT preparation, contact Donna Loewen at 563-588-2700 or donna@dbqfoundation.org

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The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque envisions a vibrant and inclusive Dubuque region where everyone can thrive. Since 2002, we have inspired people to give back to their community, and we turn this generosity into lasting change across our region, increasing access to resources and opportunities that help all people succeed.     

Visit dbqfoundation.org to learn about the many ways we are building a strong, thriving Greater Dubuque for all—and how you can donate your time, talents, and dollars to transform our region.