[West Programs] It’s Good to See You Here: Leah's Story

Monday, June 01, 2015

PCC-Leah-Grad-SpeechTan yahee ya hey – in the Lakota language means, “It’s good to see you here.”

Leah was 14 when she ended up on the streets, sleeping beside a friend beneath the marquee of an abandoned movie theater. Thrown out of her house and a future of using drugs, drinking, and moving from place to place—uncertain and scared, Leah decided she needed help. Education was her way home.

Gateway to College gave Leah the tools and resources she needed to take control. After earning her second associates degree, she was voted president of her class, graduation speaker. Leah soon transferred to a four year university and earned her Bachelors.

Leah’s advice for students like her?

“Don’t be hard on yourself. This is really, really hard—to change. To ignore all the behaviors and habits you’ve learned. Remember that everybody falls. Everybody’s who has struggled; you will fall too. But the people who will make it are those who can pick themselves up. You have to decide. Do you want this for yourself?

“Sometimes you have to bear up. You have to decide how you want your life to be—what is and isn’t good for you. But it’s always your choice. What do you want in your life? No one can change things for you. But know that you have the strength, courage, and motivation. You just have to tap into that. Hold onto what you know is best for yourself. Keep going.”

Today, Leah is married and gives back every day as a development associate for an environmental nonprofit in Portland, Oregon.

Gateway to College Social Media Directory

Thursday, May 28, 2015
Connect with us, and join the discussion! Here you will find links to all Gateway to College programs' social media accounts. If you represent a program and would like to add to this list, please email Signe at stronson@gatewaytocollege.org. 


Highline College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Lake Washington Technical College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Portland Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Spokane Falls Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Gateway to College National Network Facebook Twitter Instagram


City College of San Francisco Facebook Twitter Instagram
Contra Costa College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Laney College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Los Angeles City College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Riverside City College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Santa Rosa Junior College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Shasta College Facebook Twitter Instagram


Christel House Dropout Recovery Center & Facebook Twitter Instagram
Cuyahoga Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Des Moines Area Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Donnelly College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Front Range Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Gateway Community and Technical College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Hennepin Technical College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Madison Area Technical College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Metropolitan Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Mott Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Owens Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Pueblo Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Saint Paul College Facebook Twitter Instagram
St. Louis Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram


El Paso Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
South Texas College Facebook Twitter Instagram


Durham Technical Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Georgia Perimeter College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Hinds Community College (Jackson) Facebook Twitter Instagram
Hinds Community College (Vicksburg) Facebook Twitter Instagram
Polk State College Facebook Twitter Instagram

Bristol Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Holyoke Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Massasoit Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Mount Wachusett Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Quinsigamond Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Springfield Technical Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram


Camden County College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Community College of Philadelphia Facebook Twitter Instagram
Essex County College Facebook Twitter Instagram
Montgomery County Community College Facebook Twitter Instagram

[NE Programs] A Real Second Chance: Jahath's Story

Thursday, May 28, 2015

MCC_MA-jahath-close-upI am a young man who is on an incredible journey of self-identity and experience. I grew up in an area with a lack of opportunities and a lot of crime. I work with Gateway to College, a national organization that provides education for "at risk" students. I enjoy writing, reading, photography and community.

I grew up in Brockton, MA in a biracial family. My community has a history of drugs and violence, some of which I witnessed growing up. I dropped out of high-school but came back for my education at Gateway to College, a great program that gives people like me a second chance. In 2009 I was nearly beaten to death in a gang related robbery that required me to have extensive surgeries to repair my face.  I volunteer in the community and take an active role in developing programs for youth to improve their odds, I am interested in opportunity nation because I feel a disconnection between the corporate world and the interests of the American People. We need community capitalism, business that is not solely based on profits but also the advancement of opportunities and rejuvenation of our society. Being involved in your campaign may give me skills, knowledge, and connections which can improve the work I at home.

My commitment would be to ask questions of those who have the most experience in opportunity advancement (perhaps by video interview/social media campaign) I would like to take back the strategies and tactics I learn at the conference and apply them to my own community. I also want to develop workshops that promote innovative ways to learn and grow for at risk students.

Your Contribution Changes Lives: Shawn's Story

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Gateway to College programs have served 18,000 deserving teenagers and young adults in 23 states. Thousands more need a second chance to complete high school and post-secondary training or college. Your investment helps make that possible.

Students become disengaged from school for diverse reasons, including those related to poverty, neglect, abuse, loss of a parent, or illness. Whatever the cause of the disconnection, the consequences are dire. Students who drop out of high school earn markedly less during their lifetimes, utilize many more public services, have more illnesses and shorter lives, and are three times more likely to be incarcerated. In our 12 years of experience we have learned that given the right education environment and support, a young person can overcome these challenges.

Strategic investments in education can work. School districts, community colleges, and philanthropic foundations have come together to start Gateway to College programs in communities around the nation. Financial contributions from individuals – from you – help build the collaborations between public systems that make Gateway to College programs possible. For every dollar provided by individuals or philanthropy, nearly eleven dollars is generated from the public sphere to sustain this vital work.

It starts with that one dollar – an investment that unlocks so much potential. Shawn’s story illustrates the profound impact your investment makes.

Shawn was a bright energetic teenager with two parents who loved him, though they struggled with unemployment and lived in a tough neighborhood where few men of color succeeded. When he was 17, Shawn’s life changed irrevocably when he witnessed his best friend’s murder and saw another go to jail. He fell into a deep depression and high school became intolerable. He dropped out. Shawn’s prospects were bleak. Without a high school diploma, his chance for a good job was virtually nonexistent and even if he could envision himself in college, he would not have access to the federal student loans that would make it possible to attend. An uncle told him about the Gateway to College program at the nearby community college. Shawn felt as if a lifeline had been thrown to him.

At Gateway to College, he was in a college setting where he wasn’t seen as a lost cause, but rather as a promising young man with aspirations and a future. He had a counselor who knew his vulnerable condition and recent events, and who also knew how to chart the academic path that could lead him to a good job, or even a four-year degree, and more options. He was in school with other young people whose lives were challenging in different ways – there were teen parents, some were formerly homeless, some had suffered from abuse or neglect. They found in each other a community rooted in the will to succeed by changing the trajectory of their lives. After his first term, Shawn started taking classes with the general college population, an experience that was especially empowering. Because of Gateway, he was able to access these college classes for free, even before he finished his high school diploma. It wasn’t easy. There were setbacks that his counselor helped him overcome, such as when his parents lost their home and the family needed to live in a transitional shelter in another part of town. Twenty months later, Shawn finished high school and had accumulated 30 college credits that he would apply toward the completion of his associates degree and certificate in graphic design. He already had a part-time job using the skills he had learned in school. Shawn was elected to give his commencement speech Wearing a blue graduation cap and gown, and in front of his proud parents and younger siblings, Shawn tearfully shared his story and the gratitude he felt. “I don’t know where I would be without Gateway. It saved my life.”

Over one million students in the U.S. drop out of high school each year. Others struggle in school settings that cannot meet their needs and they are at great risk of dropping out. Your gift helps change that. Help us:

  • Train educators in innovative dual credit Gateway to College programs across the U.S.
  • Conduct research to better understand youth in transition and improve the education that supports them.
  • Build partnerships between colleges and school districts to open new Gateway to College sites to serve more students in need.

Each student’s personal story is humbling. Gateway to College educators help them realize that strong, positive networks can help them gain the skills needed to succeed in college and in their lives. An investment in Gateway to College National Network is an investment in a young person’s vision for the future.

Download the full 2014 Annual Report 

Graduations are truly something to celebrate. A contribution to Gateway to College National Network helps more pathways open for students like Shawn. It's so easy! Give now

[NE Programs] Trauma to Triumph: Tenisha’s Story

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Writing-CloseupTenisha came to interview for the Essex County College Gateway program in New Jersey with academic test scores off the chart. But she came from a rough background and couldn’t confidently express herself. Initially, Tenisha was not accepted to the Gateway program.

The next semester, Tenisha came back and tried again, showing strong determination. The Gateway team saw there was something about her—that given the right opportunity and setting, she could excel. They took a chance.

During her first semester in Gateway, she had a hard time. Latora, Tenisha’s Resource Specialist, laughs as she recalls Tenisha being a tough student. “She always got kicked out of class.” She told Tenisha, “If you want to fail, you will be held responsible.” It was then that she opened up.

“I need to do well, but it’s so hard,” she told Latora. The previous year, Tenisha was traumatized by the loss of a friend to gun violence. Gateway was there to support her though her process of healing, and Latora worked with her every step of the way.

Tenisha passed her classes the next semester and began to blossom. She learned better how to articulate herself and was promoted at work. At her Gateway to College graduation, Tenisha shared proudly, “I can’t believe I have done this!” But she worried she wouldn’t succeed in college. Latora pointed out, “You’re in college already, and you have 20 credits!”

Latora received a message after graduation. “I want to go to William Patterson University.” Tenisha is now living on campus and working full time.

[SE Programs] Gateway Changed My Life: Annielyn's Story

Friday, May 22, 2015

HCC_MS-Annielyn-Null-Prom-2014-2-ADJOriginally posted on Hinds Community College News Blog on June 5th, 2014

Survival takes precedence. You can’t focus on education when you’re hungry or the rent is due.

Annielyn worked two jobs throughout high school. She had to earn a living to support herself and family, and high school had to take a backseat. Seriously behind in school, her counselor referred her to Gateway.

Through the Gateway to College program at Hinds Community College, Annielyn got not only a second chance to graduate from high school, she racked up 21 college credits in the process. She was one of 31 Mississippi students who received high school diplomas through Hinds Community College’s Gateway to College program in 2014.

“Gateway to College changed my life,” said Annielyn. “I saw myself falling off the deep end and Gateway to College wanted to change that. The first week was the hardest but I soon realized I wasn’t alone in this. Everyone in the program was there for a reason, just like me. No one was judging anyone, and it was the nicest thing I’d ever seen.

“Every student accepted in Gateway has been given a second chance — a chance to prove everyone who has doubted them was wrong.  We have been given this chance to keep going and make something of ourselves.”

Annielyn graduated from Gateway to College with her full high school diploma and credit towards her college degree in 2014.

[SE Programs] In His Own Words: Heriberto’s Story

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gateway to College is celebrating commencement season by sharing student success stories. Each week, we'll share stories from a different region of the US, and this week we focus on the South and Southeast. Celebrate with us, and check out our Facebook for more. 

Published July 11, 2012 through South Texas College News blog

STC-Heriberto-Aviles-News-Article“I made some bad choices while I was in my senior year in high school. It wasn’t peer pressure. It’s all on me,” explained Heriberto. “The problem was that I let myself get distracted, and I think it happens to a lot of students. College was never a big thing for my friends, but I had thought about it. Coming to the Gateway Program was a fresh start…The environment here is a lot better. The distractions were removed. I felt like an adult and I felt responsible for myself.”

“I don’t think if it were run at the high school I would have made it,” Aviles said of the program’s environment. “On a daily basis it was a great experience. I came to the campus and it was better than a high school routine. You get space and opportunity to study during your free time. There are computers to use. Everything was self-paced and I wasn’t stuck in a classroom all day. I was able to get through my studies quickly and that was motivating. This program was a second chance. It gave me the motivation to finish.”

“In high school I was a decent student, but my performance through the program was better because I am motivated now; I just don’t think I was mature enough and that’s why I dropped out,” he said. “The program staff helped me transition out of the program and enroll at South Texas College. Now I am in the college’s Automotive Technology Program.”

Aviles feels he has set a good example for his friends that didn’t choose to finish high school.

“My friends that didn’t go to college, or even finish high school, are proud and motivating me to continue on. And a couple of them are asking about the Gateway Program and they see me in college. It might get them back on track too,” he said. “The program is very important in changing lives in the community. It gives students the chance to get their lives straight and make something of themselves.

“I don’t even know where I would be without going through the program. I probably would have been just sitting at home,” he continued. “It’s never too late. Opportunities are there for you, you just have to be willing to do the work. It has to come from you—the motivation.”

And he feels his future, which was once uncertain, is now very bright and full of opportunity.

“I am a full-time college student now and I plan to earn my certificate and then eventually get my associate’s degree. It will give me good earning potential,” he said. “In the future I want to do custom automotive work and I would also like to take business courses so I can open my own shop. I also plan to travel, but I want to work here in the long-term and give back to my community because it gave me a better chance for the future. Even when you think you can’t do something, you can. You can accomplish what you want if you are willing.”

[SE Programs] Keep Going: Jennifer's Story

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Jennifer Gougeon, one of the first graduates at Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College

Gateway to College is celebrating commencement season by sharing student success stories. Each week, we'll share stories from a different region of the US, and this week we focus on the South and Southeast. Celebrate with us, and check out our Facebook for more. 

Originally published Tuesday, June 3, 2014 by Polk Newsroom, abridged by Roxanne Myslewski of Gateway to College National Network.

The paths they took to get there were anything but typical, but in the end, Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College High School’s first graduating class in 2014 had all the traditional hallmarks of commencement.

Pomp and Circumstance. A reading of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go. Teary-eyed parents. Tassels moved from right to left.

The students took detours along the way to graduation. Some doubted they’d ever reach the stage. But they made it, and their mentors, parents, teachers, and Gateway program celebrated them.

Last spring, nine graduates, who themselves had once dropped out of high school entirely, straightened their caps and smoothed their gowns.

Jennifer Gougeon readied her graduation speech.

At 21, high school graduation had been a long time coming for Gougeon, an aspiring small-business owner who raises service dogs.

She stopped attending her traditional high school years ago, just before she would have become a junior. She attended two online-based charter schools, both of which closed before she could graduate. Her diploma, even though she’d spent years working to earn it, seemed to be slipping farther out of reach. She was just months from her 21st birthday, when she’d be too old to attend most schools.

That’s when she heard about Gateway.

In a conference room prior to the ceremony, where her classmates gathered to don their caps and gowns, Gougeon was still having trouble comprehending the magnitude of the event.

“My family has been making a big deal about it all day,” said Gougeon, an only child who was expecting more than a dozen family and friends from all over the state to attend the ceremony.

“They've been joking around, telling me how many years they've been waiting for this. I've been getting cards in the mail. It’s a really big deal.”

When the auditorium doors opened, Gougeon marched carefully and deliberately with her classmates. She exhaled noticeably, no doubt reminding herself that she could do what she had to. She’d already proven she could do anything.

The program began. Gateway to College Director Sallie Brisbane offered her welcome and congratulations.

Then Gougeon rose and made her way to the stage. When she took the mic, she was completely present—strong and confident.

She and her classmates had defied odds, stereotypes and statistics, she said. The Gateway faculty and staff had kept them going, even when giving up was so tempting.

“You called our cellphones, asking how our classes were going and this question — ‘where are you?’” Gougeon said.

“Gateway saw in us what others couldn't. You saw in us what we could be”

Gougeon ended her speech to rousing applause and returned to her seat. The ceremony ended with diplomas, hugs and refreshments, but also with the knowledge that Gougeon — like her classmates — would never be the same.

Gateway to College National Network Awarded College Spark Grant

Monday, May 18, 2015

College Spark Washington

PORTLAND, OR, May 15, 2015 – Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) has been awarded a grant from College Spark Washington. The grant is part of College Spark’s annual Community Grants program in Washington and will support a “School to Jobs” intervention program at Gateway to College programs in that state.

“Gateway to College National Network is honored to receive this grant from College Spark Washington,” states Devorah Shamah, Ph.D., Research Manager at GtCNN. “The School to Jobs intervention sets students up for success by connecting students’ present day achievement in school with their future career goals in a way that is relevant and identity congruent. College Spark’s support will allow us to implement this work on the community college campuses in Washington that host Gateway to College programs.”

The School to Jobs program will help dual credit students build a sense of identity and tie that identity to academic and career planning. At the classroom level, the program will include activities, interviews, and close analysis of academic path and career/life objectives. The proposed project is also designed to increase persistence, academic achievement, and develop identity congruent academic pathways intended to increase the likelihood of students persisting through college.

Gateway to College National Network is a Portland, Oregon-based, national nonprofit organization supporting 42 programs at colleges in 22 states. GtCNN works with national partners to build coalitions and improve policies that will increase high school reengagement and pathways to postsecondary degrees for opportunity youth.

College Spark Washington funds programs across the state of Washington that help low-income students become college-ready and earn their degrees. Since 2005, College Spark’s Community Grants Program has awarded more than 100 Community Grants totaling more than $15 million.

What We're Reading - May 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Stories from our field that help inform our work

Photo from news.startbucks.com.

“Why Opportunity Youth is the Focus of Starbucks 5th Annual Global Month of Service”, Starbucks News, April 1.

  • Howard Schultz announces commitment to hire 10,000 Opportunity Youth over the next three years.
  • Includes a commitment to having 25,000 partners graduate through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan by the year 2025.
  • Focus on the fact that this isn’t charity, but simply sustainable business practice.
  • Additional story at Inside Higher Ed.

“Community College of Philadelphia goes tuition-free for hundreds”, Philly.com, April 6.

  • CCP will pay the gap between state and federal aid and full tuition for all students who graduate from city high schools and have family income low enough to qualify for Pell Grant.
  • Number of recipients expect to rise from 440 in the first year to 845 by the third year.
  • National trend toward broadening access to higher education and President Obama’s announcement of free tuition are each cited.

“Corinthian closing its last schools; 10,000 California students displaced”, LA Times, April 26.

  • Formerly the nation’s largest for-profit college, Corinthian shuts its doors after close scrutiny.
  • Former students will have to deal with heavy debt and dubious degrees.

“Studies: Online Courses Unsuccessful at Community Colleges”, US News and World Report, April 27.

  • Researchers at UC-Davis find that California community college students are 11 percent less likely to pass online versions of the same course offered in a classroom setting.
  • More than 27 percent of students at public two-year colleges were taking some or all of their classes online, according to 2012 data.

“Delinquent. Dropout. At-Risk. When Words Become Labels”, NPR Ed, April 28.

  • An estimated 5 ½ million young people in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither in school nor working.
  • Throughout modern history, terms used to describe this group have often turned into disparaging labels.
  • Andrew Mason, Executive Director of Portland’s Open Meadow, talks about challenge in working with this group when they have names attached.

“Tighter ties with high schools”, Community College Daily, April 30.

  • Citing examples of successful dual enrollment and early college high school programs, a panel of higher education leaders and researchers told a House education subcommittee that higher education institutions must work more closely with K-12 systems in order to better prepare students for college-level work.
  • Partnerships between colleges and high schools are critical as local demographics continue to change.



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