Gateway to College recognizes that by building bridges to other programs serving disengaged youth, we can be much more effective at serving the needs of young people. Many Gateway to College students come to our programs because they did not have a bridge to educational success in their own lives.
For years, Gateway to College graduate Jahath Harriott struggled to find his community. As a child in Brockton, Massachusetts, a working class community south of Boston, Jahath’s abundant imagination often left him picked on by classmates and disciplined by teachers who didn’t know how to direct his energy. Throughout much of his teen years, Jahath felt like an outcast among his peers. He wrote poetry and mainly kept to himself. He ultimately found acceptance by a group of kids involved in activities that sometimes skirted the law. Jahath’s interest in school waned as he become more involved with this new group of peers.
By 18, Jahath had left school and become the victim of a gang-related robbery that nearly left him dead. After nearly six months of recovery, which included reconstructive surgery, Jahath was directed to the Gateway to College program at Massasoit Community College. Jahath was ready to learn again and in Gateway to College, he immediately found a group of peers and mentors who accepted him. He began to thrive in the classroom.
“Before Gateway to College, I wasn’t exposed to big ideas. I didn’t feel like there were opportunities for me to grow as a person. In Gateway to College, the people who were supporting each other and
leading me down the righteous path became family.”
Jahath graduated from Gateway to College in June 2013, and counts himself as a proud alumnus. Upon graduation, Jahath began to mentor young people who were in the situation he was in just a few years earlier. He was initially excited about the opportunity to share what he learned just a few years earlier, but he soon faced a difficulty that many young teachers and mentors face. The work is emotionally challenging, and sometimes isolating. “Working with ‘at risk’ youth on a daily basis, I had become frustrated with the ones who slipped through the cracks into obscurity.”
An invitation to travel to Washington D.C. and participate in the National Opportunity Summit came at the perfect moment. “Attending the Summit allowed me to realize that this movement is bigger than me, bigger than the street corners where I grew up,” Jahath shared. “What I learned is improving opportunities for youth is a movement that has to be addressed at a range of levels including mentorship, employment and political advocacy. I learned about the power that networking with other people with similar goals and ideas can have in organizing a movement.” Once again, Jahath felt a sense of being part of a larger movement.
Today, Jahath’s imagination is flourishing and focused. He funnels his energy into writing a novel, taking classes, advocating for Opportunity Youth, and mentoring peers with a renewed sense of being part of a larger movement. His belief in creating a better world has led to an interest in studying solar energy. “If we don’t divest in traditional energy uses, we’re setting ourselves up for a lot of trouble in the future.” Jahath would like his studies to lead to work in the renewable energy field, but he hopes to use his writing to travel the world and learn about other cultures, people, and spiritual beliefs.
Jahath’s novel, ‘Bludkey’, tells the story of a young man who was born into a caste system in a city built into a bunker beneath the surface of the earth. He’s heard rumors about the outside world, but systems are set up in his bunker city to keep citizens stuck in place. Jahath’s protagonist fights for opportunity, along with literal and figurative upward mobility. He takes enormous chances to eventually break free, and he discovers a world and a new community that he did not know existed previously.