[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
PSC-Keep-Going-Jennifer-Gougeon
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

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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.

 

Engaging Partners to Serve More Students

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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In addition to the direct impact that our programs create in students’ lives, GtCNN supports more post-secondary pathways for all students in need, whether they’re enrolled in Gateway or beyond the immediate roles of Gateway programs. 

In 2014, GtCNN continued our work to establish a combined movement of the growing high school reengagement efforts and dual enrollment efforts, which have each gained important traction nationally. We advocated for greater high school reengagement efforts in all communities and high quality programs for reengaged students, providing them the same opportunities for post-secondary enrollment that are offered to on-track and high achieving students.

As a network born from inter-organizational collaboration, GtCNN is engaged in broad, collaborative national efforts that will help ensure that reengagement programs feature robust post-secondary pathways. Collective impact projects have created strong momentum for serving disengaged youth in dozens of communities across the country. In 2014, we expanded our support for these efforts in local, statewide, and national venues.

On the local level, we launched and convened stakeholder engagement projects in several communities where our partners work. In this work, we assist our programs in enlisting a broader range of local public and private organizations, all of whom have a stake in the education and career outcomes of all young people in their communities. We know that students have the best chance of success when given multiple pathways.

block-quote-2By convening a broad representation of organizations, we’re able to help school districts and cities better serve all of their students. An example of this work occurred at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey, where GtCNN worked closely with Nikkie Constantine, the director of the college’s Gateway to College program. The Gateway staff at Essex identified community organizations whose work either directly or indirectly served students who enrolled in Gateway. We invited these organizations – which included school districts, youth-serving NGOs, community foundations, and Rutgers University – to meet at the college. We asked how we could move the dial to better support disengaged youth in Newark.

Key conversations and partnerships developed out of this stakeholder engagement. Academic advisors from Rutgers now visit Gateway to College classes on a regular basis to discuss academic pathways; two new school districts have the Essex Gateway to College program as an option for their students; and a pre-Gateway program has been developed to better prepare Newark Public Schools students for college success. When we work together with student success in mind, we all benefit.

On the state level, we have continued our work with education agencies and state-based networks to build support for dual enrollment as a reengagement strategy. In 2014, we focused these efforts in California, Massachusetts, and Washington. In each state, we played multiple roles: offering our expertise at early college and high school reengagement events, providing counsel to staff members of state education agencies, and taking on leadership roles convening state-based networks of practitioners. In California, our work expanded to include supporting legislative action to increase post-secondary access for our students. This work will continue to be a significant strategy for GtCNN.

Nationally, GtCNN expanded our role as a member of several coalitions and networks of advocates,
businesses, service providers, and philanthropic sponsors. We were proud to commit time and resources to growing networks such as the Opportunity Youth Network and the National Reengagement Network.

Building a movement that genuinely changes the approach and expectations for serving off-track and out-of-school students requires strong, broad partnerships across sectors. Our membership in these networks amplifies our voice and mission and provides an opportunity to build the college-based dual enrollment movement.

We saw a continued interest in the expertise and experience that comes from operating Gateway to College programs, but even more so, the experiences of our staff and students is recognized as both transferable and crucial for the larger success of a movement which aims to significantly change the lifetime trajectory for disengaged youth.

Rethinking Summer

Friday, May 08, 2015

By Aubrey Perry & Devora Shamah

Summer is generally considered a time for relaxation and play for students. However, for many college students it can be a time to either move toward completion or a time to get off track in their educations. It is well accepted that summer education experiences are important for young children[i], and we find these experiences are equally important for college students.

Gateway to college students are dual credit students working toward high school diplomas while taking college classes at community colleges. These students have had barriers to their educations in the past and were unsuccessful in traditional high schools. Our data show that Gateway to College students who chose to enroll in at least one summer class have continued to take classes in the fall at higher rates than their peers who took summer off. The summer students also passed their future courses at higher rates and ultimately earning their high school diplomas. While our data is not conclusive and may not reflect the experiences of all college students, it does suggest that as educators, we need to pay more attention to what we offer students during summer terms. Others have found similar trends[ii].

We know it is more difficult for students to return from a summer break than the shorter winter and spring breaks[iii].

For Gateway to College Students Summer was helpful because:

  • Smaller classes provided a good opportunity to take more challenging courses
  • Smaller classes provide opportunities for students to connect with each other and ensures that individuals are spending time with others who share their goals
  • More opportunities to complete developmental courses and “make-up time” which is especially key for students who need multiple course sequences before moving into their degree requirements
  • Students in our analysis had slightly higher pass rates in summer course, perhaps because they were focused on fewer courses at a time

Traditionally colleges have long summer breaks. Summer classes or activities certainly do not need to eliminate summer vacations. At the same time, colleges should intentionally provide ways for students to stay connected with each other so they can support each other’s journey toward their goals and ultimately their accomplishments.

Recommendations

  • Summer courses are a good idea
  • Summer is a good time to focus on core subject areas
  • For students who need to increase work hours in summer, alternate activities on campus may support similar goals
  • Summer service learning projects
  • Summer workshops/seminars focused on career exploration
  • Short workshops to prep for fall courses
  • Social events to bring students together on campus

Download the Poster Here: Summer-Enrollment-Poster-307

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Footnotes

[i] Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Olson, L. S. (2007). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review72, 167–180.

[ii] Adelman, C. (2006). The toolbox revisited: Paths to degree completion from high school through college. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/toolboxrevisit/toolbox.pdf

Edgecombe, N. (2011). Accelerating the academic achievement of students referred to developmental education. New York: Community College Resource Center. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED516782.pdf

[iii] Attewell, P., Heil, S., & Reisel, L. (2011). What Is academic momentum? And does it matter? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis34(1), 27–44.

Bringing the Network Together: 2014 Peer Learning Conference

Thursday, May 07, 2015

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PLC keynote speaker, Bertice Berry (right), was told by a high school teacher that she was “not college material.” Fortunately, there was another teacher who believed that she was destined for more, and Bertice proved her doubters wrong.

Gateway to College National Network has taken an increasingly prominent role in bringing organizations and systems together to discuss how we can collectively better serve disengaged youth.

When we meet together, Gateway to College and our partner organizations learn from each other’s work while creating pathways that give more options for students to complete high school degrees and begin their post-secondary education. As our external work has focused on bringing stakeholders together to improve our collective impact, we have also focused on bringing together Gateway to College programs to build a community of practice and share best practices among 42 campuses across the country.

In August 2014, Gateway to College held our 10th Peer Learning Conference in Boston. The conference, with the theme of Strength in Numbers, brought together 245 Gateway to College programs and national staff, representing 36 programs from around the country. Program staff excel in helping Gateway to College students succeed, but don’t often have the opportunity to step back and discuss their work. The Peer Learning Conference provided the perfect venue to share local successes and learn from Gateway to College peers and National Network partners. Guests included partners from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the National League of Cities. While our staff focuses on their local programs, our national partners assist in funding, strategy, and in ensuring that our work complements the vision and work of other organizations serving disengaged youth.

annual-report-quote-PLCA highlight from the conference was our keynote speaker, Bertice Berry. Like many of our students experience before coming to a Gateway to College program, Bertice was told by a high school teacher
that she was “not college material.” Fortunately, there was another teacher who believed that she was destined for more, and Bertice proved her doubters wrong. She not only graduated magna cum laude from Jacksonville University, she earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from Kent State University at the age of 26. Dr. Berry became an award-winning lecturer and entertainer, and served as host and co-executive producer of her own nationally syndicated talk show, “The Bertice Berry Show.”

As she shared with PLC attendees, Bertice believes that “when you walk with a purpose, you collide with destiny.” We believe that all of our students can walk with a purpose, and educational achievement is their destiny. For Dr. Berry, one teacher made the difference in her life. Many Gateway to College students consistently tell about how, before coming to Gateway to College, they lacked an advocate for their educational success. For most, all they need is for one person to believe in them. In Boston, 245 student advocates came together to show that our network, and our mission, is stronger than ever.

Gateway Became Family: Jahath’s Story

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

MCC_MA-Jahath-2-BW-By-himselfGateway 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.

GtCNN Directors’ Convening: Excerpts from Emily Froimson’s Remarks

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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At the beginning of April, Gateway to College welcomed our new president, Emily Froimson. Emily comes to Gateway after ten years with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, most recently as vice president of programs. Emily spent a considerable amount of her time at the foundation building their community college transfer work, with a focus on improving pathways for low and moderate income community college students to transfer to the nation’s best four-year colleges. Prior to the Cooke Foundation, she led a small grassroots nonprofit organization in Phoenix providing intervention, mentoring and afterschool programs for high risk youth. At the recent Gateway to College Directors Convening in Dallas, Emily shared some of her thoughts with the Directors. An excerpt from her comments are below.


I believe that everyone wants to be educated but traditional pathways are not designed for everyone. 

I believe that all of us benefit when everyone has a chance to develop their talents, regardless of how much extra support we need to get there.

I believe that none of us can walk through this life without the help of others.  Some of us need more support; some less. 

I believe in second chances. 

Unlike a lot of people who come to their nonprofit or service work because their own stories resonate with the populations they serve, I come to this work from a place of humility and gratitude that my own educational pathways and experiences were made easy for me and that I had access to extraordinary opportunities along the way. I had knowledgeable parents and educational institutions designed for people like me. So, I’ve always been moved by the moments that I know that a student’s life has been transformed because he or she has not only been given an opportunity, but has seized that opportunity.

Witnessing a young woman who is failing out of school and ready to give up have a profound breakthrough and change course. Calling a student to let him know that he has been awarded a life-changing college scholarship. Seeing a student surpass what they thought was possible. I know that the population we are working with here at Gateway is challenged and that the students face an array of obstacles at they seek to continue their education. But, I also know that the payoff of our success and theirs is huge and our work here is critically important.

A few days ago, I heard Malcom Gladwell speak at a conference and he talked about the capitalization effect, a concept devised by psychologist James Flynn. Capitalization is “the rate at which a given community capitalizes on human potential… what percentage of those who are capable of achieving something actually achieve it.” He argued that we have a low capitalization rate in this country, and he’s right.  

In essence, he is saying what we all know: We waste lots of talent in this country. We give up on people who don’t get it quickly. And our increasing need for instant gratification makes it even harder to make a case for those who need extra time and effort. But the cost of giving up on people who have talent (which all of us do have to varying degrees) is immense. Gladwell says this is important because when we observe differences in how individuals succeed in the world, our initial thought is always to argue that that is the result of some kind of innate difference in ability. But, the reality is that there is another explanation that has do with poverty, with stupidity (and by that he means institutions and practices that stupidly stand in the way), and with culture.

What we do at Gateway is to increase our society’s capitalization rates.

We all can list example after example of students that eventually succeeded with our efforts and, often, the efforts of other caring adults. Students that succeeded at a different rate from what our structures and culture expect. But they do succeed.

Many of our students may need the extra support and guidance, and a different setting in which to allow their abilities to flourish. Success for them may be some college and a decent paying job that enables them to take care of themselves and their families. If we can help those students, that’s wonderful. But many of our students are like my friend, who dropped out of high school and found her way back to school via a GED, then community college, then a degree from a state flagship university, then a master’s degree. She now leads a national nonprofit organization.  Or another exceptional student, who dropped out of high school for countless personal and life challenges, also found a way back to school, got a 4.0 in community college and won a Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship. She is now working on her PhD at an elite university.  All of these folks are not only highly capable; they are resilient.

What does all this mean for us? You guys get it and you believe in second chances and putting in the extra effort that it takes to help our students succeed. But we can do better. We can set higher expectations for our programs so we’re not also leaving students behind. 

Over the next day, you’ll be sharing your ideas, concerns, no doubt sharing what works and what needs improvement with respect to the role of the national office. And you’ll be sharing the challenges you face working in the field with our students. This is important and important for me to hear.  But, this isn’t the only time I want to hear from you. Know that we are listening.  Not just the staff from the education services team. We are all listening.

You are the experts on the day to day experiences of our students and we need to make sure that your perspectives are brought to the fore. And we will do that.


PCC 2014 Gateway to College Commencement Speech

Thursday, April 23, 2015

PCC_OR_Grad_2014 (326)By Nicole, PCC Gateway to College Grad, 2014

What I’m going to tell you describes my experience at Gateway, but is mainly just a love story.

Before the age of seventeen, I didn’t understand the concept of academic success. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to do well in school. I thought it was an inherent ability that unfortunately, I didn’t have. Because of this idea, throughout my almost entire academic career, I taught myself that I was stupid. My actions began to reflect this thought until it became apparent that I was a bad student. By the time high school came around, I had already developed habits that were detrimental to my performance in school. I was constantly missing classes, not participating when I was in class, did absolutely no homework, and rarely completed in-class assignments, all the while becoming increasingly frustrated at my teachers, my peers, and mostly myself. No matter how hard I, or anyone else tried to force myself to do better-- even just a little-- I couldn’t do it. Looking back, the most frustrating thing was the fact that nobody understood what I was going through. Nobody even tried to understand. Not one single person.

One day, I stumbled upon a Gateway to College brochure and out of utter hopelessness, I decided to attend an information meeting. Little did I know, that was possibly the best decision I have ever made. I learned all about Gateway and the opportunities and support it provided for students struggling under the public school system. It didn’t even cross my mind that a change in environment was all that I needed, and I had never even considered going to college. I left the meeting feeling inspired. I immediately signed up, and before I knew it, college became a reality. I started Gateway the fall term of what would’ve been my senior year of high school. Over the course of the first few days, my perspective on school shifted. I learned the way teachers were there to support me without judgment. I learned that all of my classmates were going through similar experiences as I was. And most importantly, I discovered that hey, maybe I’m not stupid.

I still remember the moment I received my first grade report. My knee-jerk reaction was to toss it in the trash before it got into the hands of my mother, but then I realized that no one was there to supervise me anymore. I was on my own. I slowly opened the packet and peered into it, all the while coming up with elaborate excuses as to why these assignments weren’t completed. But when I saw the report, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had all A’s! I reviewed my work in awe. I did this? I did this! I. I analyzed them the whole way home as I silently cried. I felt progressively moved. I had never felt so strongly about anything before. I wanted to feel this good and this capable forever. Then something wonderful happened… I fell in love with school. It was a snowball effect from that moment forward. I went from having a 0.7 GPA to a steady 3.98 GPA throughout my entire college career while working full-time. And the best part? Nobody was forcing me to do this. I wanted to do this, I loved doing this, and I was surrounded by loads of support. I couldn’t have been successful without the support of my peers, my teachers, and Jane! Oh, Jane. Jane Larson folks, let me tell ya. Jane was my advisor for Gateway to College. She helped me every-- I mean, every step of the way. She made me do a lot of things I didn’t want to do, one of them being thinking about my future, which was something I had never really contemplated before. I decided that I’d like to get my associate’s degree then transfer to a 4-year college and eventually begin a career in my birthplace, Hong Kong. Thank you, Jane.

I believe that my story speaks for itself. My experience at Gateway to College changed my life irrevocably. I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be the same person not having gone through those experiences.

We all have our own stories. We’ve all learned different things throughout our lives and we’ll continue to learn until we die. What we share are these memories, struggles, dreams, and achievements. And nobody can take those things away from us.

With that said, Gateway to College Class of 2014, I wish you luck, you’re all so awesome in your own ways, and I congratulate each and every one of you because God knows, it’s been one hell of a journey.



 
 

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