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Partner Spotlight

Partner Spotlight: National Partnership for Educational Access

Today is the perfect day to highlight one of our partner organizations, the National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA), as I just returned from the sixth annual NPEA national conference in Minneapolis. NPEA, an initiative of the Steppingstone Foundation, is a membership association of more than 290 organizations and institutions in 34 states. The members of NPEA all share the common goal of helping underrepresented students break down barriers to educational opportunities and success. NPEA provides opportunities for professional development and sharing of best practices to the more than 1000 professionals working at its member organizations and schools.

I returned from the NPEA conference encouraged by the stories of others and inspired to work even harder to help students and families. The conference's opening session stressed the importance of the work of MEFA and other like-minded organizations, as an alumni panel of students from several academic enrichment programs shared challenges, successes, and experiences on their paths to college and beyond. One particular student's story, beginning with her arrival in the United States as a child knowing no English and culminating with her Princeton University acceptance just one week prior, revealed the hardships many students face on the road to academic success. And each student talked about the financial aspect of college, and how important it was to have a mentor who could lead them through the unfamiliar financial aid process.

These real life stories reinforced for me the importance of MEFA’s work in helping families through the college planning process. I think about Jonathan Hughes, MEFA's longtime Team Leader for Customer Service who has spent countless hours with students and parents helping them over the phone, in email and for in person appointments. I think about Meredith Barnhart, MEFA's resident expert on financial aid reaching hundreds of families with her PROFILE® webinars. I think of Stephanie Wells, MEFA's Outreach Director who spearheads MEFA's work with guidance counselors state-wide.  And finally, I think of the conversations I have with families throughout the Commonwealth all year long. Many students and parents benefit from the help of MEFA and other NPEA member organizations. I worry, however, about those families who haven't yet connected with us or any other helpful organization that can provide assistance throughout this process of accessing college to make dreams come true. This remains our challenge. We ask you. How can we make sure to reach all of the students across Massachusetts and the country who need that extra attention to achieve their dreams?

We know that we can do more collectively than alone, and for this reason, MEFA appreciates the partnerships available through its membership with NPEA. Thank you, NPEA, for facilitating conversations and providing opportunities for MEFA and others to combine resources, share best practices, and work collaboratively to serve the families in our communities. We look forward to NPEA’s new Collective Impact Data Project, establishing benchmarks for the most critical indicators of success for underrepresented students and developing recommended best practices for collecting and reporting on those indicators. We know this and other projects will only improve our work with families. This is an exciting time in the field of college access and success, and MEFA is proud to be a part of it.

For more information about NPEA, visit their website at or follow them on Twitter (@NPEdAccess) or Facebook.

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