Become a Dream-Maker for Youth: Leah's Story

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Hello, my name is Leah.
 
I was kicked out of three high schools in three years. Once I got clean and sober, off the streets, and committed to school—it appeared to be too late. I felt hopeless and depressed. Despite my best efforts to commit to living a better life and completing my education, I was still failing. I felt like maybe school wasn’t for me, and if so, I would never be able to achieve my dreams for the future. In my mind, if I couldn’t have a future career that I was passionate about, I wouldn’t ever be happy.
 
I discovered Gateway to College through a high school referral. At Gateway, I had the support of a community of adults and fellow students who believed in my aspirations as much as I did and who supported me, even when I made mistakes. They treated me like an adult with my own choices, and they provided me with bus tickets and financial assistance to help remove some of the barriers to success. Most importantly, I was surrounded by an educational culture and opportunities to get involved in productive and fun social activities to replace the party environment I was used to.
 
Since I graduated the program in 2004, I have completed two associate degrees, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree. I am currently working as a grant writer, editor, and communications coordinator for multiple nonprofit organizations in Portland, and I am starting a Native American jewelry business. My husband and I are proud homeowners and are expecting our first baby this July. You could say that all of my dreams have come true, and then some.
 
I hope that my story inspires you to become a dream-maker for youth at risk of dropping out of high school and not being able to achieve their fullest potential. It is through the support of community members like you, many of whom have stories like mine, that programs like Gateway to College exist. Your contribution will help us to serve more youth who need the intensive support that this program provides.
 
Please join me in the effort to make dreams come true.
 
Thank you,
Leah

Gateway Grads: Elena's Story

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Before I became a Gateway student I was on what some people call a “no plan” plan. Growing up, no one in my family had graduated high school, let alone stepped foot in college. My two siblings and I were the ones who had to teach my parents English and translate everything in this foreign country for them. 

By the time I was in high school my mind wasn’t anywhere near ready for me to even want to attend college. When you’re raised in the hood it’s easy to get side tracked with the daily struggles that come with your environment, and almost makes it feel as if college isn’t created for someone with your background. Every single person I knew—myself included—was feeling pressure to help provide for their families which created a worker mentality instead of student. 

What drew me to Gateway to College, at first, was the fact that I would be in high school and college at the same time. But what made me decide to stay was the clarity in their goals for the students, and the sense of family between the students and staff. I felt really motivated by the fact that I wouldn’t be alone through my journey in the program. Any questions I had could be answered by the counselors and learning coaches. There was a sense of security in knowing I was surrounded by people who were reaching for the same goal as me and who were there to support me every step of the way, which made the transition from high school to college really easy.
It felt reassuring to know that even after I graduated, I could always come back and find any type of help I needed as a full time college student. 

My first day at Gateway was the day after my 18th birthday, which gave me a small sense of adulthood and made me feel like for the first time ever I was finally able to control what I am doing with my life. Being exposed to college made me realize I had never wanted to attend college because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough and most likely couldn’t handle the work. As time went on, I learned that school isn’t something that’s made for people with a specific background, but for people who have a rigorous and positive mindset. Once I changed my mentality I realized how important education is, especially for those who come from the same background as me. It is necessary that we teach our youth the significance of education, but crucial that we make them aware of the fact that they are deserving of it, and can achieve anything they set their minds to. I know now that college isn’t a single destination, but rather a gateway to a lifetime of learning. I would have never seen school as a path to success if it wasn’t for Gateway to College. 


Meet Eden Shaveet, Gateway Student Voice Writer from Mount Wachusett Community College

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Who I am:

Hi, my name is Eden Shaveet. I’m an 18-year-old aspiring psychologist from Hubbardston, Massachusetts, who was born in Petah Tikva, Israel, in 1997. I love to travel and consider myself a fierce social and political activist. As an advocate for community outreach, I also volunteer as a mentor for a children’s program whose objective is to emphasize behavioral and emotional well-being. My passions lie within the field of social sciences and in educating others on the importance of empathy and non-judgement. I believe that education has the power to open minds to a seemingly infinite potential, as well as open doors to a vast range of opportunity. The experience of being a Gateway to College student has provided such opportunities to me, along with countless other students from innumerable eclectic backgrounds. My hopes for this blog are to share my experiences as a Gateway to College student, to pass along advice, detail stories, and to initiate important dialogues about our society and how emerging situations affect us as youth, students, and human beings.

Why I came to Gateway:

My discovery of the Gateway to College program came at a despairing point in my life where I had essentially relinquished any hope of finding happiness or success in my academics. After leaving conventional school and spending 4 years in social seclusion, I was convinced that my life would continue to fall into a downward spiral of depression and skill-based inferiority as I sat on the sidelines, watching the rest of my peers excel in their social and scholastic settings. Gateway to College gave me the chance to redeem myself and pursue opportunities that would help sculpt me into the person I am today. The experiences I’ve come across as a Gateway student have allowed me to attain my once-distant aspirations and encouraged me to develop a sense of fortitude and resolution that once seemed insurmountable. Although the road from troubled teen to successful student has not been an easy one, I have Gateway to thank for helping me find my way.

Where I want to go from here:

Once graduated from Gateway, I would like to go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology, attend graduate school to earn advanced degrees, then complete postdoctoral studies in neuroscience. I intend to become a neuropsychologist whose focus lies within research and clinical work in regards to the treatment of mental illness. I would like to establish a wellness center dedicated an all-encompassing approach to treating mental illness, in which individualized wellness plans are designed for each patient and their specific needs. Depending on such, patients could be matched with a slew of professionals such as psychotherapists, nutritionists, life-coaches, personal trainers, meditation experts, clinical physicians, yoga instructors, aromatherapists, career counselors, herbalists, hypnotherapists, prescribers, mental-health counselors, social workers, voice pathologists, massage therapists, and virtual-reality specialists (for purposes of emersion therapy via the oculus rift) on an as-needed basis who all work together in a team to guide and assist the patient through their particular coping process. This would ensure that all factors contributing to any certain mental complication could be addressed, from both an internal and external perspective.

Had it not been for Gateway, the confidence I have in this goal would be non-existent. 

Gateway Grads: Lauren's Story

Friday, May 20, 2016
Lauren enrolled in Gateway at age 16 with only 3 high school courses completed. Traditional high school didn’t work out because she missed many days due to debilitating migraines. The later start time, reduced classroom hours, and new environment provided the breath of fresh air Lauren needed in order to reduce the migraines’ frequency and severity.  

Lauren became the first Gateway student at MWCC to simultaneously earn her high school diploma and associate’s degree (Broadcasting & Electronic Media), graduating with 100 high school credits, 69 college credits, and a cumulative college GPA of 3.12. Lauren also pursued her passion for writing through her contributions to the college's annual literary journal.  

Lauren attended Brandeis University and earned a double major in English and creative writing. Her goal is to become a writer with a focus on the arts and ultimately to weave her love of writing and photography into a cinematography career.  

When asked how Gateway made a difference in her life, she said the campus atmosphere was student-focused; the staff was supportive, helpful, and really cared about student success. The aspects of the program which contributed most to her academic success was the self-accountability which motivated her to do her best. Lauren feels she has a more mature outlook toward education and works harder because of this experience.

Gateway has changed the way Lauren views herself in that she is much more positive about herself and the future, where education is stimulating and not a chore. The environmental change enabled her to focus on academic success and not merely on the “survival treadmill” of managing the traditional high school workload/schedule with medical absences.  


Gateway Grads: Jose - Madison Area Technical College

Thursday, May 12, 2016


During high school, Jose made some poor choices and dealt with a lot of peer pressure. Reflecting on those days, Jose states, “I used to hang out with the wrong crowd. I knew they weren’t a good influence, but I guess I just wanted to fit in.” He dropped out of high school during his junior year and earned no credit his last semester due to his attendance. He spent three years out of school before he applied to Gateway to College at Madison Area Technical College.
 
Shortly after dropping out of high school, he began working at an Italian restaurant in Madison’s downtown area and was hired as a dishwasher. Working in the kitchen, he began to take notice of the head chef and fell in love with cooking. He has now worked at the same restaurant for over 4 years and notes how supportive his employer was when he decided to go back to school.

In his application essay, he wrote, “thinking about what I can become once I set all of my goals and accomplish them is a very good feeling. With this second chance I can finally say ‘I did it, I got my diploma.’  That’s something I would like to do and make my parents proud of what I have accomplished here and what I yet have to accomplish further on.” His perseverance is testimony that hard work really does pay off. He worked tirelessly to complete assignments, even during spring break week, to ensure that he didn’t fall behind while holding his job in the food service industry.

Jose was one of the five graduates who participated in the college’s first Gateway to College graduation celebration. His family cheered him on as he walked the stage and received his high school diploma. He has been accepted to Madison College’s Culinary Arts program and will begin in the fall to fulfill his dream of becoming a chef.

Length of time out of school: 3 years
Number of high school credits needed at entry: 10
Number of college credits earned: 8
Current college GPA: 3.33
Estimated time working in food service: 4+ yrs
Admitted to the Culinary Arts Program

This spring, celebrate student success with a gift to the Gateway to Graduation campaign! Help more off-track and out-of-school youth reach their graduation stage. 

Gateway Grads: Allison and Trey – Owens Community College

Thursday, May 05, 2016
Early in her senior year, Allison—a teenager with attention deficit disorder and test anxiety—found herself with a full schedule and got overwhelmed. She dropped out of high school. She had other forays into education, such as a stint at a dropout recovery school with a mostly online curriculum, but she decided six hours a day in front of a computer wasn't for her.

Her prospects weren't bright.

"There was a point in my life where everything came crashing down," she said.

Allison, at 19, had a breakdown. This is the point where many young people give up.

But these days, she has a job and her own place and is back on track at school, thanks to the Gateway to College program at Owens Community College.
Allison said she thinks she's found a second chance in a school setting geared toward her. "Here," she said, "they actually care."

Gateway provides formal help, with mentors, advisors, and coaches. If you forget a pen, the Learning Center's director, Willie Williams, told students, staff will get you one. If you need bus tokens, they've got them.

"Ask for it," he said, "and we will find ways to support you."

Gateway lead resource officer James Jackson, Sr., challenges them on their drive—a legitimate question because most had given up on school at some point. They need to want to graduate.

"We want it for you guys," Mr. Jackson said, "but we can't give it to you."

Trey McBrayer, 17, found himself stuck in neutral at Start High School. Laziness, he admitted, led to little school work. He stopped gaining credits and eventually left for Phoenix Academy.

"School just didn't matter to me then," he said.

But when young McBrayer heard about the Gateway initiative, something clicked. He saw a second chance. Realizing how hard it would be to find a good job without a high school diploma, let alone a college degree, he decided to take the opportunity.

"At some time, you gotta grow up," he said.

Learn more about the Gateway to College at Owens Community College by listening to this audio story from PRX.

This spring, celebrate student success with a gift to the Gateway to Graduation campaign! Help more off-track and out-of-school youth reach their graduation stage. Click here.

Reengagement: Bringing Students Back to America’s Schools, Book Release

Thursday, May 05, 2016
It’s graduation season – what can we do to ensure all young people graduate?

Reengagement: Bringing Students Back to America’s Schools
Book Release and Panel Discussion

Tuesday, May 10 at 6:00 p.m.
Portland Community College
Cascade Campus
Terrell Hall, Room 122 
 

Please join Gateway to College National Network, Portland Community College LINKS Programs, the Portland Public Schools Reconnection Services, Worksystems Inc, and the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families. 


Using examples from promising practices around the country, a panel comprised of Oregon-based contributors to the book will discuss how reengagement strategies can play an essential part in raising Oregon’s high school graduation rate.

RSVP by emailing Glenn Fee, Associate Vice President of External Relations at GtCNN: gfee@gatewaytocollege.org

GtCNN Hosts Portland Community College Student Panel

Thursday, April 21, 2016


On Friday, April 25th, GtCNN and Gateway to College at Portland Community College hosted our Oregon Ambassador Council and friends at PCC for an a lunch and inspiring student panel. 

Gateway students Crystal, Ruby, and Mathias met GtCNN guests in the Community Hall and took the group on a tour of the campus, sharing a day in the life of a Gateway student. A highlight was a visit to the PCC Links offices, the space where students meet with tutors, mentors, and one another to discuss homework and some of the challenges and triumphs in their lives. The students spoke about how important it is to have a caring cohort of peers and coaches whenever needed in the Gateway program. 

“If I’m ever upset, or need help with homework or just someone to talk to, I can come here and talk to Hanna,” said Crystal of her Success Coach. “She’s amazing, and always here for me. That’s so important for me—to know that if I need her, I can just call.”

After touring the library and learning about the unlimited access the students have to college resources, a guest asked how much this costs the students. 

“Oh, it’s free. We have a small fee we pay at the beginning of term, but we’re all basically on scholarship. Our books, classes, everything—it’s all covered by Gateway,” said Ruby.



After sitting down for lunch, the student panel was joined by College Success Coach and all-around hero Jane Larson and Oregon Gateway Ambassador Alexander, a graduate from Gateway to College at PCC. The panel spoke about their difficult experiences in traditional high school, from feeling ignored and unchallenged to being harassed and bullied. Gateway students endure serious trials and come out stronger on the other side, pursuing their diploma and degree. 

It was an emotional experience for many of the students and guests. This brief but impactful afternoon highlighted to guests and staff how important and powerful the Gateway to College program is for students who need a second chance at education.

Please join us in May as we launch Gateway to Graduation and celebrate our students on their journeys to graduation and lifelong success!


Providing a Bridge to Postsecondary Success

Tuesday, April 19, 2016



Oregon, GtCNN’s home state, stands 48th in the nation in on-time high school graduation. Students who make it to college in Oregon complete school at one of the lowest rates in the nation. For youth in state care - young people who are homeless, in foster care, or the juvenile system - high school completion and college-going rates are dismal. In the Portland Metro area, more than 12,000 youth are in state care. These young people have the same aspirations as their peers, but often lack the resources to achieve them.

 

This fall, GtCNN will launch PDX Bridge, a collaborative project that will provide these young people a comprehensive bridge from high school to first-year college completion. PDX Bridge will help address the critical state issue of educational equity  by working with students who are in state care, many of whom also come from traditionally underserved populations.

 

PDX Bridge is a coalition of six local service providers, four government agencies, two school districts, and one college. Together, we will build a collaborative strategy connecting existing services to provide Bridge students a pathway to college and career success. Wraparound services will focus on helping students successfully complete their first year of college, a strong predictor of future postsecondary success.

 

By working closely with our partners, we will identify and enroll youth in the fall. In the winter and spring, we will provide dual enrollment opportunities and intensive supports through Portland Community College. To date, GtCNN has secured generous funding from the Miller Family Foundation and Mae and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust. We will work to secure additional support from foundations and individual supporters this spring and summer, with the intention to serve 300 young people over the next three years.

Gateway Graduate, Movement Leader

Monday, April 11, 2016


Tekoa Hewitt stood in front of a room of hundreds of people at the Ready by 21 Conference in Baltimore last week. He told the audience about how he lost his twin brother as a teenager. He fell into a deep depression, dropped out of high school at 16, and lived on his own in a crime-filled part of Flint. He spent nearly two years working at a pizza shop, but realized that he needed education to change his trajectory. 

"I couldn't continue to live like this every day – the same poverty, the same violence, the same lack of opportunity,” he said to the crowd. “So I decided to enroll in Gateway to College, an amazing program where I earned high school and college credits." 

Tekoa is a recent graduate of Gateway to College at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, and is currently in the honors program at the college. As a member of YouthBuild’s National Council of Young Leaders, Tekoa often speaks about his pathway to reconnecting with his education. 

At the Ready by 21 Conference, Tekoa spoke about how organizations can better meet the needs of out-of-school youth. “I think the way a lot of people like me can recover is by knowing there are supportive people in the community that do want to help people like me, and provide the support that is necessary for young people to escape poverty.” 

Programs like Gateway to College have the power to change lives due to the staff of caring adults who recognize the potential in every young person. “Somebody telling me that ‘You are better than this, you can do more with your life,’ it's really important and that's what you get through a lot of these comprehensive programs. That’s what I got from the Gateway to College program,” he said. “‘You can be more than what you have been,’ they said, and they pushed me to be the best person that I can be. For that I am grateful.”

For a student like Tekoa, an alternative pathway to education allowed him to overcome personal obstacles and recognize the unique skills he possessed. "Maybe not everybody has a college degree, but everybody has skills that can make them productive in society,” continued Tekoa. “There are a lot of individual traits that we all have that if someone can recognize that, it can make a difference in young people’s lives.” 

As he ended his remarks to the room full of leaders, he thanked everyone in attendance for the work they do. “We rely on you. The work you do changes lives.” Tekoa plans to change lives, as well, by attending graduate school and using his education and experience overcoming poverty to impact youth in need. Tekoa is already making a difference by mentoring new Gateway to College students who are transitioning back onto a pathway to a high school diploma.  

Gateway to College was transformative to Tekoa. “I can't believe the person I was then became the person I am now.” Tekoa is paying it forward by transforming the lives of young people and the caring adults who serve them. 



 
 

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