[Careers] Data Analyst/Research Assistant

Monday, October 24, 2016
Position Announcement
Data Analyst/ Research Assistant

Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) is a Portland-based education nonprofit organization with partner programs in 21 states. GtCNN replicates and supports programs on college campuses across the country serving dropped-out and off-track high school students as well as underprepared college students. Founded at Portland Community College, the Gateway to College program now operates at 41 colleges in partnership with well over 100 school districts. More information about Gateway to College National Network is available at: www.gatewaytocollege.org

This position is part of the Research & Evaluation team. Our team of four collaborates together to support program evaluation, research, and reporting requirements for the organization. 
GtCNN is an equal opportunity employer and is actively seeking to increase the diversity of its workforce.

Duties
• Designs, modifies, and supports extensive data collection systems using Access, SQL, Excel and new tools as acquired
• Trains local program staff in support of data collection and database usage through on-line training modules, group training webinars and individualized technical assistance
• Coordinates multiple projects, including overseeing timelines of data submission and ensuring data quality to support program evaluation
• Identifies multiple methods for data collection and implements strategies to collect data from community colleges and school districts
• Works with national program staff to develop meaningful analyses for stakeholder and client reporting
• Communicates complex results to lay and research audiences
• Collaborates with the team to create meaningful monitoring metrics and evaluation results
• Coordinates successful completion of projects and ensures quality meets established goals
• Serves as contact for IT providers
• Other related duties which may be necessary to support GtCNN success

Supervision & Reporting
• This position is an individual contributor and does not have supervisory responsibilities
• Reports to Senior Manager of Research

Requirements
• Master’s Degree in Social Science, Education, Human Development, Public Administration, Computer Science, Information Sciences, or other research oriented fields, OR comparable experience in the field.
• Proficiency in SQL, Access, and Excel
• Ability to effectively share results across multiple audiences with differing levels of education and expertise
• Strong independent problem solving skills
• Ability and willingness to travel nationally (less than 10%)
• Ability to work collaboratively in a fast-paced and diverse team environment

Preferred
• Proficiency in statistical software (such as stata, SPSS, SAS, R)
• Exposure to business and academic analytics a plus
• Experience in K-12 or college data systems
• Proficiency in business intelligence platforms such as Tableau
• Comfortable troubleshooting technology issues and coordinating with IT support providers
• Experience using GIS and spatial data

Physical Demands / Work Environment:
Majority of work is completed in a general office environment with exposure to moderate levels of noise in a well-lit, well-ventilated and fast paced environment; continuously required to read computer screen. Minimal travel (10% or less) is required; travel is national in scope requiring travel by air as well as driving; a valid driver’s license is required.

Compensation:
The starting annual salary for this position is between $40,000 - $45,000, consistent with professional experience and credentials. GtCNN offers a comprehensive benefits package. This is a full-time, exempt position located at the organization’s offices in Portland, Oregon.

TO APPLY: Please email a cover letter and resume to hr@gatewaytocollege.org. This position is open until filled.

[Careers] Regional Director for New England

Monday, October 24, 2016

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT
Regional Director for New England


Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) is a Portland, Oregon-based education nonprofit organization with partner programs in 20 states. GtCNN replicates and supports programs on college campuses across the country serving out of school and off-track youth as well as underprepared college students. Founded at Portland Community College, the Gateway to College program now operates at 39 colleges in partnership with over 100 school districts. More information about Gateway to College National Network is available at: www.gatewaytocollege.org


The Regional Director for New England is a remote employee of GtCNN who will develop and support a community of practice among all Gateway to College programs in New England. The Regional Director will provide guidance and support to local programs, in order to assist them to improve student performance outcomes as well as maintain sustainable programs and partnerships.

RESPONSIBILITIES
Quality Implementation (60%)*
• Provide training and coaching to new Gateway to College programs
• Support and coordinate effective program practices to ensure timely data collection and accountability reporting
• Provide support and guidance to New England Gateway to College programs in support of achieving student performance benchmarks
• Support programs’ continuous improvement processes based on fidelity to GtCNN’s essential elements and evidence-based strategies that contribute to student success

Facilitate a Community of Practice (30%)*
• Act as a primary point of contact to GtCNN for New England-based Gateway to College programs and connect programs to other resources as needed
• Facilitate the development of a regional community of practice, document and share best practices among programs
• Support and coordinate communication and reporting by local Gateway programs to GtCNN and state departments of education

Regional Sustainability (10%)*
• Develop and strengthen local networks and stakeholder relationships, including college and school district leadership, workforce boards, and state departments of education
• Secure resources for program and network sustainability through fundraising and developing local partnerships
• Identify community volunteers to serve as GtCNN ambassadors. In collaboration with GtCNN staff, launch an ambassador council to build community support for New England programs and raise funds for GtCNN
*The estimated percentage of time spent on each responsibility during the first year on the job is listed above. GtCNN expects that over a three year period, the balance of activities will shift and the amount of time spent will be evenly split between each responsibility.

SUPERVISORY RESPONSIBILITIES
• This position is an individual contributor and does not have supervisory responsibilities

REQUIREMENTS
• Familiarity with alternative education programs; leadership or administrative experience in alternative education programs preferred
• Familiarity with early or middle college, or dual enrollment programming
• High level of passion, interest and expertise working with low income, first generation, students of color; understands barriers that lead to achievement gaps in K-12 and college systems
• Comfort with working independently and remotely
• Strong public speaking with presentation skills
• Experience engaging funders and foundations, and ability to facilitate proposals at a statewide or regional level a plus
• Familiarity with the Gateway to College program model preferred
• The candidate will reside in either Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island
• Master’s degree preferred, or a Bachelor’s Degree along with significant experience commensurate with the role is required

PHYSICAL DEMANDS / WORK ENVIRONMENT
Majority of work is completed in a home office environment with continuous exposure to computer screen. Frequent regional travel by car and air as well as occasional national travel, including travel to GtCNN offices in Portland, Oregon is required. A valid driver’s license is required. This is a full-time, exempt position located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island.

COMPENSATION
The starting annual salary for this position is consistent with professional experience and credentials. GtCNN offers a comprehensive benefits and vacation package which includes 19 days of vacation and personal time in the first year. This is a full-time, home-based exempt position with expectations of work throughout New England.

TO APPLY
For best consideration, please email a cover letter, resume, and answers to the supplemental questions to Alina Randall, arandall@gatewaytocollege.org by October 31st, 2016. Incomplete applications will not be considered. This position is considered open until filled.

REQUIRED SUPPLEMENTAL QUESTION
In addition to a cover letter and resume, please include a response to the following prompt:
• How has your prior experience and passion for working in alternative education serving opportunity youth prepared you to be successful in this role? What skillsets do you bring to the position?

Gateway to College National Network does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, and clients.

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Three Ways Your Company Can Support Youth to College and Career

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


There is an old song called “Both Sides Now” that makes me think of my role at Silicon Forest Electronics and my involvement on the Ambassador Council with Gateway to College National Network. In this role, I’m fortunate to see a contrast of opportunity from “both sides”. My business supports the aerospace industry, where more than 30% of the workforce is over the age of 55. When you consider the continued growth of aerospace and the emerging demand of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, significant employment opportunities for youth are available. We need to work together to help these young people become aware of and excited about career opportunities in the industry!   


In my work with Gateway to College National Network and the Gateway program at Portland Community College, a few simple steps have helped us develop a closer to tie to our future workforce. Here are three ways that your company can also help make that happen:


1 – Invite youth into your operations to see how things are made

As industry leaders, we should all accept the challenge to show youth what is possible, invite them into our operations to see how things are made. Many of them may not have visited the inside of a real manufacturing operation, and may have misconceptions about “manufacturing”. When they get to see the level of automation and technology they get excited! Likewise, seeing the diversity of people in your company gives allows them to visualize how they might be a part of something bigger.


2 - Get out into the community and schools - share what you do

At Silicon Forest Electronics, we regularly visit schools, both middle schools and high schools, to participate in mock interviews, give presentations about aircraft and unmanned systems, and to give students a glimpse into our careers. The exchange process is wonderful – the students are eager to see “cool stuff” first hand and our employees get to make an impact by sharing why and how they got into their careers.


3 - Stimulate and encourage more apprenticeships and internships

We have two paid internships annually (6 months each) and we recently had our first high school intern. There are great community partners in Oregon & Washington who can help coordinate internships. We believe that there are even greater opportunities to develop internships and reduce barriers for at-risk youth to obtain internships while going to school. We just need to connect and get creative!


By making a greater, seamless connection between industry and education, our youth can visualize themselves in future roles that build upon their unique skill sets, a benefit to “both sides”. Get involved with organizations like Gateway to College National Network – invest your time as an employer in councils, boards and committees in your local and regional organizations. Your investment will help our youth develop as individuals and support our overall economic growth with a thriving workforce!


Oregon: Opportunity Youth and Graduation Rates




Gateway Grads: Alexander's Story

Thursday, October 13, 2016
When Alexander entered high school at Portland’s DeLasalle North High School, he recalled that high school was the next step on his educational journey, and he was excited to play sports. Like many teenagers, however, life threw a curveball. His parents had divorced just a few months prior, and the transition to high school proved difficult. Alexander didn’t have a strong sense of self-worth, and found himself leaving school after only a year. He tried a computer-based program for a short time, before enrolling into Portland’s LEAP Academy and struggling through for nearly two years.
 
“I didn’t have many positive role models or close relationships with faculty, and I was hanging around a group of friends who weren’t a positive influence,” Alexander said, in describing his time at LEAP. Ultimately, he was kicked out of the school for fighting. A few months later, Alexander was in front of his house playing basketball. A neighbor approached and asked why he wasn’t in school. It turned out the neighbor was a Gateway to College graduate from the Portland Community College (PCC) program. He encouraged Alexander to apply to Gateway to College, which he eventually did. “At a time that many of my friends were beginning college, it really struck me that it would be a pathway into college,” says Alexander.
 
In Gateway to College, Alexander found the peers he had always been seeking. The Gateway to College faculty and staff served as strong mentors, and access to college-level classes helped Alexander better envision his future. “The interactions made me feel I was truly cared about,” Alexander described. “When you feel love and support outside of the family, it can have an even greater impact on your life.”
 
Alexander graduated from Gateway to College, and continued to pursue his associate degree at Portland Community College. He served as a leader in the Black Student Union, and found another mentor through the African-American Men’s Scholar Project in Dr. General Johnson. Alexander graduated from PCC last spring, and now attends Portland State University. Alexander is determined to act as a mentor to other motivated young people and serve as a role model for graduating high school and working toward postsecondary success. 

[Infographic] Graduation Rates Continue to Rise, but Low-Income Students Need More Support

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

In 2013-14, the most recent year available, graduation rates climbed to an all-time high, with 82.3 percent of students graduating in four years. As a result of the progress made over the past decade, nearly two million additional young people have graduated from high school. These young people have strengthened their chances of earning a postsecondary credential and higher future wages.


Despite these gains, for the first time in four years the nation is slightly off pace to reach the goal of a 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2020. When the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) hit 80 percent in 2012, calculations showed that the national graduation rate would need to increase by roughly 1.2 percentage points per year to achieve 90 percent by the Class of 2020. Between 2013 and 2014, the nation missed this mark and will now have to average closer to 1.3 percentage points in gains over each of the next six years to reach the goal.


Raising the graduation rate from its current 82.3 percent to 90 percent would require graduating an additional 284,591 students. In order to graduate these additional students, schools, districts, and states will have to focus on getting significantly more students of color, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and low-income students on track to earning a diploma.


The gap in graduation rates clearly exposes an equity issue. Currently, only 74.6 percent of low-income students graduate on time. For the nation to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate, about 264,000 – roughly 93 percent – of the additional graduates will need to be from among low-income students.


This infographic compares state-by-state graduation rates among all students and among low-income students. In every state, low-income students graduate at a lower rate than their higher income peers. In nine states, the difference was 20 percentage points or more. Of low-income students who graduate high school, considerably fewer enroll in college the next fall, compared to middle- and high-income students.


We must do more to support low-income students in high school, and set them on a pathway to graduation. Gateway to College exists to give all students a second chance to earn their high school diploma and college credit, and we remain committed to opening opportunities for students to gain increasingly critical postsecondary credentials. 



PDX Bridge, Program to Support College Achievement for Young People in State Care, is Launched

Wednesday, September 07, 2016



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Glenn Fee

Associate Vice President, External Relations

971-634-1525

gfee@gatewaytocollege.org


PORTLAND, Ore., September 6, 2016 – Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN), a Portland-based nonprofit, announces the launch of PDX Bridge, a partnership to provide a bridge from high school to college completion for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable youth.


Through PDX Bridge, GtCNN will convene state agencies, school districts and nonprofit partners to provide Portland-area foster, juvenile justice, and homeless youth a bridge from high school to and through college. By focusing efforts on our community’s most vulnerable youth, PDX Bridge will simultaneously help address the state’s low college-going rates and a gap in educational equity.


Oregon has one of the lowest college-going rates of recent high school graduates, exacerbating the state’s rank of 47th in the nation in on-time high school graduation. Young people in state care fare particularly poorly, having among the lowest postsecondary enrollment and completion rates of any group. Nationally, only 10% of foster youth enroll in postsecondary education, and only 3% obtain a postsecondary credential, compared to 40% of their peers. GtCNN President, Emily Froimson, on why this program is so important to our region: “Portland cannot meet its educational and workforce needs while leaving our most vulnerable youth behind. Our community needs a ‘bridge’ to link our existing resources and provide youth in foster care, the juvenile justice system, or experiencing homelessness with clear supportive pathways from high school to college and career success.”


PDX Bridge connects students in state care with the wraparound support needed to enroll in college and successfully complete their first year, a predictor of future college success. This fall, eight partner agencies across Multnomah County will recruit youth to participate as the initial cohort of 25 dual enrollment students. An additional 25 students will enroll in the spring, with an eventual enrollment of 100 students each year. Students will be enrolled at Portland Community College, and will receive coaching services as part of the college’s Future Connect program.


The foundation community – led by gifts from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, The Collins Foundation, and the Spirit Mountain Community Fund – has recognized the need to support underserved youth, and has contributed $205,000 in support of the program launch. “Gateway to College has a proven track record helping each student find a pathway to postsecondary education. We are happy to support PDX Bridge and provide access to important educational supports for homeless and underserved students in state care,” shared Martha Richards, executive director of the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.


On September 15, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., GtCNN will host its latest Gateway Gathering, a series of discussions aimed at examining educational challenges for vulnerable youth in Portland. The September 15 Gathering, to be held at the Northwest Health Foundation in Portland, will feature four students from PDX Bridge partner organizations, who will share the obstacles they overcame in completing high school and getting on track to a meaningful postsecondary credential.


About Gateway to College National Network 

Gateway to College National Network supports communities in building sustainable pathways for disconnected youth (former high school dropouts) to a high school diploma and a meaningful college credential. GtCNN was founded at Portland Community College in 2000, and now supports 39 programs in 21 states around the country.  www.gatewaytocollege.org, @gtcnn


[Gateway Student Voice] Reflections of a Student Panelist

Thursday, September 01, 2016



At Mount Wachusett Community College, Gateway to College resource specialists put on a Gateway Student Panel during the new student three-day orientation in which both returning students and alumni share their experiences about what it's like to be in the Gateway to College Program at MWCC. The objective is to give incoming students a look at what Gateway is like from an experienced student's perspective. Eden Shaveet tells her story of serving on the student panel. 


A few weeks ago, I received an email from my advisor asking me to partake in a panel for the incoming Gateway to College students at Mount Wachusett Community College. I agreed, of course, and cleared my calendar. 


The day of the panel, I dressed to the nines and carried my business card in my pocket like the real grown-ups do. When I arrived on campus, I sat with the other student panelists in a resting area near a lecture hall and talked about the lives we’ve lead since we had all last been together. When we entered the room in which the panel was going to be held, I sat down in a chair and went through my daily motions: I checked my MWCC staff email and confirmed my attendance at the events and meetings occurring later in the week. I adjusted my schedule, texted my co-worker to solidify details of an event we were set to facilitate on campus, and I double-checked to make sure my calendar was set to “busy” for the next two hours so that there would be no disruptions throughout the duration of the panel. When I put my phone down and looked up, I realized that nearly 30 pairs of eyes were glued to me.


Some faces were familiar. I recalled interviewing them earlier in the summer to determine whether or not they were cut out for the program. By the nervous waves and smiles I received, they seemed to recognize me too.


As I sat there, looking out over everyone, I felt a sort of discomposure that I couldn’t quite explain. It was a feeling very similar to the one I felt the day I attended my own panel as an incoming student, and watched as returning and former Gateway students opened up about their personal experiences in college. I remember being 17, watching them from the back of the room, and making it a point to remain as distant from social interaction as possible. My attention, however, was continuously being grabbed by one student panelist whose undeniable confidence resonated with me. She was a girl who had made a name for herself on campus, who spoke with a kind of certitude and conviction that both terrified and intrigued me. I was scared of her. I admired her. I envied her.


And now, as I sat in front of all these new, anxious faces, I was her.


So many things have happened within the course of a year. In fact, I sometimes find it difficult to believe that it’s only been a year since my journey in the Gateway to College program began. Perhaps that’s why I found it so strange to look out over the new faces of Gateway; I remembered that only 12 months ago, I was in their position – anxious, unsociable, and wondering how anyone like me could possibly succeed in the college environment.


Looking out at these new students, I felt for them. I wanted to be their friend and to guide them through this new chapter of their lives, but I also recognized that in order for them to grow as individuals and students, they will need to discover and face these challenges themselves.


And while I’m excited to witness how their journeys unfold from the sidelines, I want them to feel comfortable approaching those of us who have been in their position before.


I want them to know that I’m on their side.




-Eden

Eden Shaveet is a Gateway to College student from Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts. She is an LAS major looking to pursue further degrees in psychology and neuroscience, and currently works as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement out of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.




[Gateway Student Voice] What It’s Like to Come Back to School After 4 ½ Years

Thursday, August 04, 2016

During the spring of my 7th grade year, I decided that I did not want to go to school anymore. 


A seemingly tactless and unrealistic decision, I know, but I hoped it would make me happy after years of struggling with what seemed to be an unexplainable, perpetual sadness that worsened with each year I ignored it. After nearly a decade of jumping from school to school and transforming myself to fit each new social environment I was placed into, I grew tired of my “new girl” status and wanted space from everyone and everything I had once so desperately tried to become. 


By the end of my 7th grade year, I was enrolled into an online academy that held the promise of a new beginning away from the people and places that felt toxic to my wellbeing. 


By the time I turned 17, I was a despondent teenage catastrophe who had spent the last 5 years secluding myself from family, friends, and anything that bared a reminder of the life I gave up. By that time, I had withdrawn myself from academics completely. I felt like a disappointment. I couldn’t even bring myself to wake up in the morning for fear of remembering who I had let down and wondering why I never asked for help.


Upon acceptance to the Gateway to College program, my initial reaction was to jump with joy over the fact that someone saw something in me worthy of this second chance I so desperately needed. My second reaction was to stop jumping and allow my nerves to sink in over the fact I felt wildly unprepared for the college environment. I had been out of formal academic practice for nearly 4 ½ years (over a quarter of my life at the time), and now I was going to be a full-time college student? Was I crazy?


I felt anxious. Not the sort of anxious that is all-encompassing and debilitating to the point of dysfunction, but anxious in the sense that I was suddenly continuously aware of a dull yet very present ache in the pit of my stomach and forefront of my head whenever I imagined myself sitting in a classroom. I had this recurring dream where I failed every course in my first semester, which always resulted in my waking up in a nervous panic. At the time, failure seemed like an extremely likely possibility. 


A year has passed since the day I was accepted into the program.


I’d like to be frank in saying that my academic experiences in Gateway thus far have been extremely difficult. 


I would also like to be frank in saying that despite these difficulties, I have managed to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA, head multiple student-clubs, and am now even employed in a student leadership position on my college campus. 


For so long, the idea of attending college was a terrifying reality I never wanted to face. Not because I feared the prospects of education, but because I feared the prospects of failing to measure up to everyone around me.


But I was able to defy the odds, and you can too.


I can’t speak on your behalf, but I can speak based on what I have learned from my own experiences: if you spend all of your time worrying about what could have or should have happened in the past, you will miss out on the life you have been given to live at this very moment. It’s never too late.


Don’t give up on yourself. 




-Eden

Eden Shaveet is a Gateway to College student from Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts. She is an LAS major looking to pursue further degrees in psychology and neuroscience, and currently works as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement out of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.





Srimoyee Shanmugam, Data Analyst

Saturday, July 30, 2016
Srimoyee Shanmugam is a Data Analyst, and joined GtCNN in June 2016. She uses SQL, Stata, and Tableau to draw and evaluate program information to facilitate the national network providing informed support to partners. She contributes to survey development, distribution, and results analysis, and collaborates with the rest of the research and evaluation team to conduct relevant research.   

Srimoyee graduated with a BA in Economics from Reed College, where she focused on modelling Microeconomic applications of Game Theory. In her previous position, she did Data Analysis with the Centre for Intercultural Organizing. Srimoyee endeavors to uphold a commitment to use her own skills and educational background to help bring corresponding opportunities to youth.

Gateway at QCC Graduate Speech: Alexis

Friday, July 29, 2016


Like many Gateway to College students, Alexis’ journey to graduation was complicated. Through perseverance, belief in herself, and support from her community, Alexis overcame multiple hurdles to receive her high school diploma this spring through the Quinsigamond Gateway to College program. Alexis was the speaker at the school’s commencement, and she later shared her speech in front of her local school board, as a way to encourage support for more out-of-school and off-track youth in her community. We encourage you to spend a few minutes to read Alexis’ words, and gain a greater appreciation of the incredible students served by Gateway to College programs. See the video of her speech at 1:37 here.
 
So, when I sat down to write this thing, I had all of these ideas in my head of what a perfect graduation speech should be like, and I was picturing Lizzie McGuire stumbling across the stage after Kate Sanders calls her out for being an “outfit repeater,” or Troy Bolton talking about how we really are “all in this together." Then I kind of snapped out of it and realized the only graduation speeches I had ever seen were from Disney movies, and it probably wasn’t going to be as easy or comical as they made it seem. So, naturally I went into panic mode for a little bit and scrolled through Google for hours researching perfect speech writing techniques. I eventually calmed down when I realized if anyone was going to care about a pristine alternative high school commencement speech, it for sure wasn’t going to be this group of kids.
 
Starting now we have more important things to worry about, like financial aid, our careers, or who’s going to give us our weekly kick in the butt when we start slacking, that we all may have complained about, but when really without it, we probably wouldn’t be crossing this stage today. So Marci, Jenna, Vanessa – on behalf of all of us, we can’t even begin to thank you enough for all that you do, not only to keep this program alive, but for caring so much about each of our individual successes and doing whatever it takes to help us get there. You have instilled a new drive and passion toward our education in each of us that will continue on with us in all of our future endeavors.
 
Speaking of the future, there’s a quote that really struck me when I was reading about “second chances” one day by Steve Blank, a professor at Philadelphia University. He says, “People talk about getting lucky breaks in their careers. I’m living proof that the ‘lucky breaks’ theory is simply wrong. You get to make your own luck. The world is run by those who show up, not those who wait to be asked.” What this made me realize, and what I hope that my fellow classmates will remember as well, is that as much as Gateway to College has seemed like a dream second chance or lucky break to us, we have worked hard to be where we are right now, and that it's okay to glorify your own success. Always be thankful and humble, but also be prideful, as pride can be one of our greatest motivators. Remember that nothing in life is handed to you and you may not always be given a second chance in the future. Take every opportunity that comes to you because you have worked for it and now you're being rewarded.
 
It goes without saying that High School obviously wasn’t the best years of any of our lives. Whether it was physical or mental illness, family problems, or anything in between, we are all here simply because traditional high school just was not going to work for us, and personally it felt like I went through hell a dozen times and back. To summarize my four year long story in the shortest way possible, the summer going into my sophomore year, I made the decision to move from the high school I had attended the previous year, back to my hometown high school. I had decided that the negative energy and bad influences weren’t good for me to be surrounded by. Late August comes around and school starts again. I ended up getting appendicitis and had to miss the first month in my new school due to surgery. This set me back so far that there was almost no coming back from it, no matter how hard I tried. Still, with every complication, I managed to pass and move on to junior year. However, I was 10 credits short because of my absences due to the surgery. This didn’t worry me too much because Marlborough High has a credit recovery program. With the new school year approaching I put myself in a positive, motivated mindset and was ready to take on whatever came my way. I didn’t expect depression to get thrown at me. The mental illness quickly took over my life in the winter of my junior year. I was suffering in silence because I did not know how to express what was wrong with me and I had convinced myself that it wasn’t fair for anyone else to have to deal with my burdens. I missed school at least once a week and my teachers treated me like I was a nuisance when I asked for extra help.
 
Once again, I was falling behind. Even though I probably shouldn’t have, by some miracle I passed and made it to senior year. But the depression never got dealt with. Towards the end of my junior year, my family and I experienced an unexpected move to Hudson. My other siblings all had to transfer to Hudson schools, but because I had only one  year of school left, they told me I would  be allowed to stay and graduate with my classmates. It's the first day of senior year, and I get called into the Vice Principal's office. She tells me that I need to transfer to Hudson High school immediately, that Marlborough doesn’t have school choice and she does not know why I was led to believe I was allowed to stay. This became a huge problem because not only does Hudson High have higher credit and graduation requirements but they have no credit recovery program either. So going into my third high school, I needed to somehow make up the 10 credits I was missing, but also fulfill these new requirements. I signed up for 4, maybe 5 extra classes and was told that even if I passed all of those classes there would be a chance that I still would not have enough credits to graduate on time.
 
Through all of this my mother was married to an abusive alcoholic. We were living in a seemingly never ending inescapable cycle. In October of 2014 my mom decided enough was enough. We had no choice but to leave, for our own safety, with no money and where to go, and became homeless for almost 4 months. So with being homeless, having depression, and dealing with extra classes, my life was a bit of a mess. It interfered with my school work because I was always so worried about what was going to happen next and I did not have a reliable computer or internet. Not to mention, Hudson High did not know how to properly accommodate someone in such a rare situation. I was falling even more behind. Although I wasn’t going to graduate on time, or with my class, I had accepted the reality of my situation, and decided to make use of the resources available to me and, finish at my own pace.
 
That's when Gateway to College came into my life. Both semesters I have spent here have been very chaotic and filled with a lot of change for my family and I, but at this point we can pretty much handle anything thrown at us. This past semester I was hospitalized for my depression and finally diagnosed. I got the help I needed, but was missing school and falling behind again. After the hospital, I got pneumonia and missed even more school. I almost gave up and just decided to drop out because the universe obviously does not want me getting my diploma. I then decided to take a step back and really look at my situation. If I really wasn’t meant to graduate, I wouldn’t be here in the first place. I looked at everything that was happening to me as a defeatable challenge rather than a block in the road and decided to power through and finish the semester as best I could. Here I am, 4 years later, with a B average GPA, telling you all my story and feeling stronger than ever.
 
I want to take a minute to thank all of the people who helped me through this long, complicated process of getting my Uxbridge High School diploma, which is ironic because I don't think any of us have ever even set foot in that building. Anyway, to my Dad, thank you for not letting me give up, thank you for having faith in me when I had none in myself and for pushing me to want more for myself. Mom, thank you for being one of the only people who understood how hard school was for me and loving me even on my worst days. To my grandparents, thank you for making it your mission to help me through Gateway. Without your support and rides to class every day, I wouldn't be standing here right now. Lana, Charlotte and Timmy, you three are my sole motivation for everything I do. Whether you guys realize it or not you make me want to be a better person every day. Thank you for being my best friends. To my friends who I’ve known throughout high school, you guys experienced the hell with me so thank you for staying by my side no matter what I was going through. Lastly, to the friends that I have met through and since starting the program 2 semesters ago, thank you for being the most accepting, down to earth group of people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I felt more accepted with my peers here at QCC within a few weeks of knowing them than I ever did with 4 years of my classmates at “real” high school.
 
Anyways, enough sappy stuff before Jenna starts crying…
 
To the class of 2016, despite every obstacle the universe may have thrown at us during this journey, our pasts our behind us and we’ve finally made it. You have finally made it. Congratulations!

 
 

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