Your Contribution Changes Lives: Shawn's Story

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the full 2014 Annual Report 

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

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