Ellen McCabe's College Prep Course Has 100% Success Rate

05/03/2013 at 10:35 AM EDT

Ellen McCabe's College Prep Course Has 100% Success Rate
Seniors at Wellston High School hold their college acceptance letters to pose with teacher Ellen McCabe
David Yellen
English teacher Ellen McCabe would often ask her students in Wellston, Ohio, a rural area hard-hit by the economic downturn, what they planned to do after high school.

"I was shocked by how many of them had no plans," she says. But she understood why so few of them did. "Many of their parents never went to college," she explains. "I realized they didn't know how to go to college."

She set out to change that. McCabe, 51, created a college-prep course at Wellston High School called Journeys that not only teaches students how to apply but helps them find a way to pay for it. She also raised money to take her students on college visits, brought in campus reps and offered ACT college entrance exam at Wellston for the first time. "I want all the doors open for them," says McCabe who herself enrolled in college after a retail career, at age 38.

In two years, all 61 students who've taken her class have been accepted into college. "This is the most rewarding thing I've ever done," says McCabe, who is often called "Mom" by her grateful class. "She's always there for her students," says senior Mariah Bledsoe, who will be the first in her family to go to college.

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