Robert Palmer

(Photo by Amy Floyd)

As a first-generation college graduate, Robert Palmer ‘15MEd understands the impact postsecondary education can have on the lives of individuals and their families. He knows first-hand how post-secondary readiness is the agent of opportunity for so many young adults.

“During my time as a counselor at the high school level, I realized the importance of postsecondary readiness and how involvement from an institution of higher education can be vital to increasing K-12 student access to educational opportunities beyond a diploma,” says Palmer, who earned his Master of Education in Counselor Education from the University of Central Florida.

Palmer is now the university assistance coordinator at the UCF Center for Community Schools, located in the College of Community Innovation and Education. The UCF Center for Community Schools supports the development and sustainability of community schools.

Community schools engage community partnerships to bring resources, services and opportunities to underserved schools. The aim is to improve student success and strengthen the school community. University partnerships are a key component to community schools as they engage higher education to bring professional development for teachers, expanded learning, mentoring, and service-learning, as well as post-secondary readiness opportunities to students.

Palmer supports 26 Community Partnership Schools in Florida as they collaborate with their college or university partners to help develop programs and services to impact K-12 students and families. However, it’s not only beneficial for them. The goal is to simultaneously create impactful service-learning projects, programs and opportunities for college faculty and college students, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between the community school and university or college partner.

“My role as university assistance program coordinator and my professional and personal experiences in the K-12 setting allows for me to have a unique lens in connecting higher education and K-12 to create mutually beneficial collaborations that ultimately can lead to improved educational ecosystems,” Palmer says.

Prior to joining the center, Palmer worked for Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), where he held the position of college and career specialist supporting students in developing their post-secondary plans. He also worked for OCPS as a guidance counselor and teacher before becoming a college and career specialist.
“Being able to help bridge the connection between Community Partnership Schools and colleges and universities to create increased preparation for, and pathways to, diverse careers is what I love the most about the work,” Robert says. “From my own personal experiences and that of others, I have seen firsthand the impact of educational opportunities beyond a High School diploma that lead to endless career opportunities.”

Palmer is currently working with UCF faculty and staff members to expand the reach UCF has on Community Partnership Schools in the Central Florida region. Facilitating partnerships between the schools’ staff and faculty at UCF, Palmer is aiming to increase and engage STEM experiences to enhance student learning and interest in related subject areas and career fields.

Post-secondary opportunities didn’t just provide Palmer the training and support he needed to build a future for himself – it sparked a light in him to facilitate a transformative change in educational systems, improving opportunities for generations to come.

“Education beyond high school not only expands the type of careers that our students and families have access to,” Robert says, “but also their ability to fully participate in society due to the social mobility that post-secondary attainment creates.”