High Ratings: Double Discovery to Celebrate 30 Years of Achieving, Excelling

Photograph: From 1967 after a Tonight Show appearance: From left, Double Discovery students Leo Rohan and John Johnson, Roger Lehecka, CC '67, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, John Herbert, CC '69, and Double Discovery student Juan Cruz.

Columbia's Double Discovery Center (DDC), an academic enrichment program which helps New York City students graduate from high school and college at a rate significantly higher than the national average, will celebrate 30 years of success on Thursday evening, Dec. 7, in Low Rotunda.

Nearly all the students who participate in DDC are African American or Latino. The four-year graduation rates for African Americans and Latinos enrolled in college are 48 percent and 44 percent, respectively, and the combined rate for all races is 58 percent. But, DDC students far surpass those figures: 66 percent graduate from college in four years.

On Dec. 7, DDC will also announce plans to carry its mission into the 21st century by bringing more college preparation services to the Harlem community through a network of on-line college information centers to be located in churches and community centers.

President Rupp said: "I am extremely proud that Columbia is home to Double Discovery. It is a great program that nourishes the potential of thousands of New York City schoolchildren. The Columbia College students who founded Double Discovery believed that high school students and their college tutors had something to learn from each other, hence the name Double Discovery. That is still true today."

Project Double Discovery, as it was originally called, was started by Columbia College students advised by history professor James Shenton.

Columbia's program was one of 18 Upward Bound pilots nationwide announced in a June 16, 1965 press release from the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), headed by Sargent Shriver, who stated: "America's greatest waste is the loss of skill and exceptional minds of those young people who are capable of going to college, but cannot do so because of the psychological, social and physical conditions of poverty."

Project Double Discovery began that summer at Columbia with one program, Upward Bound. In 1977, it expanded to include a second federally-funded program, Talent Search.

Over its history, DDC has developed a successful model that helps students graduate from high school, gain acceptance to college, and subsequently to graduate. DDC also helps intermediate school students apply to high school.

Most DDC students either live or attend school in Harlem, DDC's target area. To qualify for the largely federally-funded program, students must be either low-income or first generation college-bound.

Roger Lehecka, dean of students at Columbia College and one of the program's founders, said: "When Steve Weinberg and I got together in 1965 to write the grant for PDD, we never thought that we were building a framework that would span three decades. In the optimism of youth, I don't think any of us felt that there would still be a need for this program as we prepare to enter the 21st century. But since the need clearly still exists, I am thankful that we have the program and I am proud of my continuing association with it."

Kevin Matthews, DDC executive director, said: "Though we are very proud of the Center's successes, we have not lost sight of the educational barriers that low-income youngsters and youth of color face. We are heartened by the large number of volunteers and friends who continue to pledge their services and resources toward the Center's mission of a college education for all youth."

In addition to academic tutoring and counseling, DDC offers its students access to information about colleges, both in electronic and traditional printed form.

DDC has software to assist students with studying for SATs, selecting colleges and locating scholarships.

This year, Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Centers Inc. donated 850 SAT preparation books and its new media division, Kaplan Interactive, donated software and will train volunteers and paid staff to use it for tutoring students.

The materials donated by Kaplan will be used in DDC's Computer Lab, sponsored by Apple and Citibank.

Over the course of 30 years, some 15,000 students have attended DDC; currently about 1,000 students in grades 7-12 are served each year.

Each spring, counselors tour colleges with DDC students, who go on to attend a wide range of post secondary institutions, including Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Georgetown, Howard, Boston College and Wesleyan.

DDC alumni have pursued careers as doctors, lawyers, teachers and bank executives, among other professions.

On Dec. 7, President Rupp and 1968 DDC graduate professor Clifford Jernigan of Pennsylvania State University will speak and former Mayor and now Columbia Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs David N. Dinkins will be honored for his contributions to the youth of New York City.

Mark McEwen of CBS This Morning will serve as Master of Ceremonies. The reception in Low Library begins at 6:30 P.M. For ticket information, call 854-3897.

Columbia University Record -- December 1, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 11