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. 

Foster Youth Convening: From State Care to College

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The rise in graduation rates has been celebrated nationally, however the rise has not reached all segments of the population. Graduation rates remain low for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, and students with limited English proficiency. The high proportion of foster youth who drop out before completing high school is especially alarming. Fewer than 50% of foster youth graduate from high school, and those who do graduate are unlikely to move on to a 4-year school. Fewer than 10% graduate from college, at a time when a college credential is increasingly critical to job prospects.

A significant number of Gateway to College students – approximately 10% of the students in our 41 programs – identify as foster youth. Increasingly, research shows that students succeed when they receive additional support services and interventions that help them navigate challenges in and out of the classroom. Approximately 70 percent of foster youth report that they want to attend college. They just do not know how. For foster youth, specific interventions are especially important for success in providing them a pathway to a postsecondary credential.

Over the course of two days, December 3 and 4, Casey Family Programs and Gateway to College National Network welcomed national experts – including Dr. Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California and Dr. Jody McVittie – and teams from five states who are committed to improving educational outcomes for foster youth.

Participants learned about federal resources and opportunities to support foster youth, effective system approaches and interventions, and trauma and learning. Understanding the barriers these young people face in reaching educational milestones and how the issues of trauma present themselves and are responded to are essential to increasing college access and persistence in postsecondary education.

Gateway to College National Network is committed to the success of our country’s most underserved youth. In 2016, we launch a partnership in Portland, Oregon that will prepare system youth – foster, adjudicated, and homeless youth – to finish high school and successfully complete their first year in college. If successful, this initiative will place many more foster youth on a pathways to postsecondary success, and address a critical inequity in our education system.

Gateway to College National Network Enrollment Strategic Planning

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

GtCNN is committed to continual network improvement to support our program’s work with students and their communities. A 2014-2015 initiative focused on increasing enrollment in eight Gateway programs through development and implementation of strategic enrollment plans. The project enabled Gateway programs to improve their enrollment processes by focusing on the development of tactics that address their enrollment and work with their local stakeholders to implement these strategies.

In spring of 2014, GtCNN staff led strategic planning sessions with each of the eight Gateway programs, and their local stakeholders, to examine their strengths and obstacles in enrolling new students. Each planning session led to the development of 6 or 7 goals around enrollment and the formation of teams, who worked together to develop tactics and implement Strategic Enrollment Plans in late 2014 and 2015. Their work over the past year and a half culminated in the Gateway to College Summer Enrollment Conference, hosted in Portland in June 2015. At the conference, the enrollment teams shared best practices with colleagues from 36 Gateway to College programs through workshops in areas such as social media, the use of written collateral, building community partnerships, and student and alumni referrals.

During the Summer Enrollment Conference, GtCNN staff interviewed members of the eight programs involved in the enrollment project. The resulting videos provided an additional resource of enrollment tactics for all Gateway programs. In 2016, GtCNN will launch a National Network honors program and develop new curriculum as we continue to provide resources to help our programs provide a pathway to high school graduation and postsecondary success.

Research and Data Inform our Work

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

“At first semester here, I had like all As and Bs, Second semester, I made the Dean’s list. The third semester, I think I did, and last semester, I think I did too. But this year I was inducted into the honor’s society.” 

Male Gateway student who left high school with a GPA of .80

The focus of research at GtCNN is to amplify student voices and provide additional evidence as programs continue to improve practice. In June 2015, we wrapped up data collection for an ambitious project, Understanding Academic Success. The project examined Gateway data and census data, surveyed students about technology, and interviewed 62 successful students. In addition to the interviews, 20 of these students allowed the research team to shadow them for a full day. We woke up at the crack of dawn to meet students as early as 6:00 am as they traveled to school by car, bus, or family carpool. We went to class, observed as they worked in computer labs, printed assignments, and mentored other students.

These students showed us the incredible dedication they have to their education with long commutes and dedicated study hours on campus, all while managing work, parenting, and their own health issues. This research has provided reams of data that we will be learning from for months and years to come. We now have a clear picture of the type of neighborhoods students live in, how Gateway students access technology (over 95% have devices), and how students succeed in college with the support of Gateway staff, peers, and family as they pursue their aspirations of supporting their families and giving back to their communities.

“My first semester was my best semester. I think it was such a relief to be around people that actually cared. I didn't really mind getting there and waking up at nine because I've been getting up at seven before so I think I had a four point out my first semester. My counselor is probably the best person I've ever met my whole life. Although one day I have one idea of what I want to do with my whole life and then I'll go in another day and change the whole thing, and she’ll be like 'okay' and figure out how we can do that and be supportive of anything anyone wants to do… Yeah and being treated like I was more of an adult” 

- Female student who left high school with a 1.29 GPA, describing starting Gateway to College

In addition to continuing our work with these data in 2016, we will also conduct research on postsecondary enrollment after Gateway. This research will help us better understand student pathways to a meaningful credential, as we examine important components of a supportive learning context, including sense of belonging and social support. We will also be continuing to learn about how the School to Jobs curriculum, from Daphna Oyserman at USC, can benefit Gateway to College students.

“I think it’s [Gateway support that builds success] keeping up with stuff. Which kind of makes us feel like we’re important, and they don’t want us to fail.” 

– Female student who came to Gateway because she didn’t feel safe at her high school.

Featured State: Gateway to College in California

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jessica Zambrano, now a 4.0 student at Gateway at Santa Rosa Junior College, nearly gave up on her education. With her mother frequently hospitalized from a chronic illness, Jessica was the primary caretaker for her three younger siblings. At 16, Jessica had to quit school and eventually held three jobs trying to make ends meet when her mother was hospitalized.

Jessica and her siblings were eventually placed with other family members and foster homes, which was difficult but alleviated the intensive responsibility of caring for her siblings.

Jessica joined Gateway to College fiercely determined to succeed. “I saw the opportunity I needed to be something and do something with my life,” she said. In Gateway, she found support, not judgment, for her difficult path. With a 4.0 grade point average her first semester and perfect attendance, her future looks bright.

California has challenges in serving its large and diverse group of high school students. With the highest student-counselor ratio and largest homeless and foster youth populations in the nation, California schools, like some of the students they serve, need support. Gateway to College National Network is committed to facilitating support systems and partnerships to serve California’s hardest-to-reach students, like Jessica. California enrollment in Gateway programs has now surpassed all other states, with 955 students served in academic year 2014-2015.

GtCNN has opened seven programs in California, including our first replication site in 2004: Riverside Community College (Riverside), Santa Rosa Junior College (Petaluma), Contra Costa College (San Pablo), City College of San Francisco (San Francisco), Laney College (Oakland), Los Angeles City College (Los Angeles), and Shasta College (Redding).

"This is the second college to which I’ve brought Gateway to College,” says Dr. Frank Chong, Santa Rosa Junior College president and member of GtCNN’s President’s Circle. “I've seen close up what a successful model Gateway to College is. It’s innovative, honest, powerful and it works."

Building partnerships is key to serving the diverse needs of California’s student population. GtCNN has welcomed our first Gateway Affiliate member, Berkley City College, to expand our impact on underserved youth in the state.

GtCNN has extensive roots in California communities, especially the Bay Area and Los Angeles Metropolitan area. Jill Marks serves as GtCNN’s dedicated California State Director, located in Los Angeles. GtCNN’s goal is to have twelve programs in California by 2020, so more students like Jessica can have a second chance at earning a high school diploma. 

Featured State: Gateway to College in Massachusetts

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rafaela Lopes organizes GO Make a Difference, a United Way-funded operation helping children of homeless and displaced families through community dinners at a local Boys & Girls Club in Leominster, MA. She also organizes community birthday parties, with hundreds in attendance, for local children. In 2015, Lopes ventured to Haiti to work with children in clinics, nutrition centers, and schools, bringing 14 suitcases of school supplies, food and clothing. She is driven, and passionate, about helping underserved kids.

Lopes is 18 and a student at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gateway to College program.

Since 2006, GtCNN has had an impact on Massachusetts communities. Many Gateway students, like Lopes, want to give back. Mount Wachusett is the oldest of six Gateway programs in the state, opening its doors to out-of-school youth in 2006. Since then, 2178 students have been served at all Massachusetts programs. The partnerships have proved invaluable for students, but also for the colleges. All six programs are members of Gateway to College National Network’s President’s Circle, which brings together campus presidents to support the work of the National Network and, in turn, the campus programs.

“Gateway to College offers opportunities for young people to return to pathways in education,” says Bristol Community College President, Dr. John J. Sbrega. “By simultaneously earning a high school credential and some college credits, Gateway students enjoy brighter prospects for the future. I am proud of our work in this valuable program which invests in young people and our communities.”

Dr. Sbrega is one of three Massachusetts partner college presidents retiring this year. The average college president serves for seven years, but these three presidents have gone above and beyond in their effort to serve local students: William Messner of Holyoke Community College, 12 years; Dr. John Sbrega of Bristol Community College, 17 years; and, Dr. Daniel Asquino of Mount Wachusett Community College, 29 years. All three have provided innovative pathways for students from all walks of life to succeed in the college environment.

“Gateway to College provides a clean slate for students to reengage and take ownership of their education within a supportive environment,” says Mount Wachusett Community College President, Dr. Daniel Asquino. “As the first Gateway site in New England, I have witnessed the long-term benefits this program provides to students, our college and most importantly, our community. Since 2006, 206 students have graduated from our GtC program, with the majority continuing their educational journey within our institution and beyond.”

In the next few years, GtCNN will continue to expand in Massachusetts and New England, adding programs and further closing the aspiration and attainment gap for out-of-school and off-track youth in the region. Gateway students and graduates like Rafaela Lopes will continue to inspire and mentor the younger generation of New England youth.

Meet Melanie Quinones, Gateway Student Voice Writer from Donnelly College

Thursday, February 18, 2016

In addition to writing for Gateway Student Voice, Melanie is an honor roll student and Editor-in-Chief for Gateway Star, a student-run newsletter for Gateway to College at Donnelly College.


Who am I?

My name is Melanie Quinones, but my friends refer to me as Mel. I've lived my whole life in Kansas City, KS, and consider myself quite the explorer. I explore a wide range of things: music, food and places. From what I have learned, the best thing to explore is experiences. By that I mean what you can learn and what you can take from a moment or circumstance. Since this is my last year as a teenager I've come to the realization that time is moving at a speed that disappears with every blink, and I can't let this pass me by. This love for exploring is the reason I'm here in Gateway. By learning, you’re exploring your potential and giving yourself the key to go further in this world. Education is the the foundation I need to accomplish to move on to the next bigger and better experiences. My hope, for my part in this newsletter, is to inspire others and to create a community of like-minded individuals to start and have those conversations that need to be heard.

Why I came to Gateway

In my third year of high-school I had to change schools due to moving houses. The school I was forced to go to was not the environment I wanted to be in. I felt like an outsider and unwanted. The way the students acted made me feel uncomfortable. I did not want to be there, and I tried to change schools. I was rejected from transferring and had no other option: I dropped out before my second semester of junior year started. I knew I still wanted to get some education and went forward with GED classes. I was about halfway through completing it when I was approached with Gateway as my other option. My old counselor from a prior high school told me I shouldn't have to sell myself short. She knew the circumstances of why I dropped out and knew what I was capable of. The next day we set up a meeting to come talk to the administrative assistant of Gateway.

“My old counselor from a prior high school told me I shouldn't have to sell myself short. She knew the circumstances of why I dropped out and knew what I was capable of. The next day we set up a meeting to come talk to the administrative assistant of Gateway.”

I was hesitant to join because of the time frame that they have given me for my expected graduation. I was so close to finishing my GED and thought it would be more time consuming to switch. After considering my options, I decided that I would give it a chance. All the time I had spent out of school would have been made up through the college credits I earned. That is one of the better decisions I have made in a long time.

Currently, I am in my third semester of Gateway. I have one more to go until graduation. It's been an experience for which I will be forever grateful. I definitely think being involved with Newsletter as the Editor in Chief and joining Donnelly College’s DLAC has kept me on the path of productivity and taught me how to step up and lead. Not only that, but having a positive relationship with all of Gateway’s staff has made the difference in my academics. They’ve shown me how to be held accountable. Academically, I've earned a spot on the honor roll for the last two semesters I have completed, and I credit that to all the help I’ve received and all the late nights I had to re-read essays.

“…Having a positive relationship with all of Gateway’s staff has made the difference in my academics. They’ve shown me how to be held accountable.”

Being a part of the Newsletter has not only helped me form into a better leader but has influenced me on what I want to pursue after I leave Gateway. I know for sure I to want major in graphic design as well as communications. I don't think I’d be on this path if it wasn't for Gateway.

Alina Randall

Monday, February 15, 2016

Gateway to College National Network is pleased to welcome Alina Randall as our new Coordinator of Network Membership. In her role, Alina serves as a frequent point of contact with our national network partners, ensuring that they are informed of important network news & have access to the wide range of resources critical to their success. Alina will collaborate with the Education Services team on special projects, as well as develop and promote student leadership opportunities for GtC program alumni.


Prior to GtCNN, Alina received her Masters in Sociology from Humboldt State University. She is a Pomo Native and enrolled member of Round Valley Indian Tribes, which shaped her focus to examine the U.S. Criminal Justice System and its effects on Indigenous Nations. Alina has evaluated juvenile probation programs and was a member of the Youth Disparities Reduction Collaborative in Humboldt County. She received her B.A. in Sociology from San Francisco State. While in San Francisco, Alina worked for a few nonprofits collaborating with low-income communities around education equity, which propelled her passion to partner with communities and address the inequities of marginalized youth. Alina can relate to GtC students and recognizes it took a village to get her to this point in her life and she will make every effort to be part of the GtC village for our youth.


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