The Greater Trenton College Access Network was formed in 2018 to share knowledge and collect data on college access, youth development, and workforce readiness among community-based organizations in Trenton, NJ, and the surrounding communities. The network aims to support our students, teachers and school staff, and organizations to strengthen the collective efficacy of all involved.
For decades, various groups have provided essential college access services to students attending Trenton Central High School, as well as district and charter schools throughout the region. Informally, they worked together to identify areas of need, professional learning opportunities, and spaces for collaboration. Inspired by the National College Access Network and the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable, a group of these organizations and college access programs began to collaborate more directly. In 2009, Trenton Central High School (TCHS) hosted a strategic planning session to lay the foundation for establishing “TCAN,” the Trenton College Access Network. Engagement across the network remained loosely connected for a few years, with programs working to promote each other’s diverse opportunities and supporting the students in our region.
In 2017, a phone call and meeting between Michelle Thompkins, Director of Youth Engagement at Millhill Child & Family Development, and Jason Klugman, Director of the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP), led to the launch of the network as it now operates. The following year, Michelle and Jason approached colleagues from organizations committed to youth development throughout the Trenton area and hosted the first meeting of the TCAN that summer.
In 2019, after more than a year of meeting at various member organization sites, the network became settled at the new TCHS Campus where, collectively, TCAN programs served 440 TCHS juniors and seniors (’20 and ’21) in after-school programs. The team created a document highlighting the signature programs from each representative organization, and with support from counselors and administrators at TCHS, a plan was set in motion to create a modest College Resource Center within the building.
Initial Participating Organizations
- Boys & Girls Club - Teen Programs
- Bridge to Employment - Janssen Pharmaceuticals & TCNJ
- Educational Opportunity Fund Program - MCCC
- Educational Talent Search - MCCC
- Foundation Collegiate Academy
- Futuro - Latin America Legal Defense & Education Fund (LALDEF)
- Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program - Millhill Child & Family Development
- Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) - Princeton University
- Trenton Central High School
- Trenton Peers Program- Millhill Child & Family Development
- TRIO Upward Bound Program - MCCC
- Wise Up - College Admissions & Financial Aid Assistance
- Young Scholars’ Institute of Trenton
- Youth Career Connection & Summer Youth Job Connection - Mercer County One Stop
The need for collaboration like this proved even more critical given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local communities. Unable to meet face-to-face, the network quickly adapted to move forward virtually and provide increased support to our students in the new landscape of socially distanced and online programming. TCAN has since provided a space for members to critically brainstorm creative problem-solving techniques, encourage one another, and develop a repository of resources to assist communities through unprecedented times. Organizations have hosted virtual college readiness events and personal development workshops, increased support for personal, emotional, and academic wellness, provided access to technology and requisite services for online learning, and even hosted sessions to celebrate the Class of 2020 and their college acceptances!
Thanks to the generous support of Princeton University’s Service Focus initiative, Madeleine Chong (Princeton ’23) worked as our first summer intern in the summer of 2020. She developed the TCAN website, centralizing organizational information, college-related resources, and youth development information into one location. In 2022, TCAN officially became a sponsored project of Princeton's Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity. Also in 2022, Juan Martinez (PUPP/TCHS Class of 2019; Bates College '23) translated the entire TCAN website into Spanish to better serve our community. In July of 2023, Michelle Thompkins stepped down from her position at Millhill and with TCAN. Stacy Denton, from Upward Bound at Mercer County Community College now co-chairs TCAN with Dr. Jason Klugman PUPP/Emma Bloomberg Center at Princeton.
We invite you to learn more about TCAN by exploring our growing list of member organizations, links to program information, and our calendar of events.