The Postsecondary Success Initiative
These stories exemplify the barriers that disconnected youth have to overcome in order to persist and succeed in college and the drive and dedication exhibited by the PSI students as they overcome obstacles to college success. These stories have been written by staff at College Initiative, MY TURN, and Open Meadow. We have changed the names of the students in order to protect their privacy.
Joseph joined College Initiative in the summer of 2010, seven days after his release from prison after completing a three and a half-year sentence. While in prison, Joseph was lucky to have access to college classes offered by Marist College. He obtained 12 credits and left prison with a 3.57 GPA. Once released, Joseph set as his goal the completion of a college degree. College Initiative helped Joseph enroll at Lehman College to pursue a degree in Business Administration. So far, Joseph has earned 24 credits while maintaining a 2.9 GPA, which he was confident would "be over a 3.0 after the spring semester is complete."
Joseph is currently in the process, with the help of his College Initiative Academic Counselor, of transferring to Baruch College. "Baruch will provide me with the set of skills in business that they are known for," he says. Joseph attributes his success in college to his personal drive, ambition, and the network of people who continue to help him, particularly his College Initiative Mentor and Academic Counselor. Joseph has applied to participate in the training to become a College Initiative Mentor for the Fall 2011 semester.
In talking with College Initiative staff, Joseph emphasized the importance of the network of supports, from academic remediation to referrals to agencies and community-based organizations that College Initiative offers. Of particular importance to Joseph is the personal support of his College Initiative Mentor. The fact that College Initiative Mentors have walked the same path, from involvement with the criminal justice system to college and back to their communities, not only inspires Joseph, it allows him the space to speak freely about his concerns, fears and hopes. Joseph also understands that his own success can inspire those who follow him and that he is a mentor of tomorrow. College Initiative aims to offer students the structure and support to become the next generation of leaders.
Kerri was referred to the MY TURN GED Plus program in Brockton by her probation officer in 2009. She had been mandated to attend a GED program as a condition of her probation and so became MY TURN's first GED Plus student. Kerri was a very quiet and bright student who scored nearly at college level on her academic assessment tests. She maintained perfect attendance and worked diligently while in class. Kerri soon revealed to staff that she was three months pregnant. The father of her child, also a former MY TURN participant who had recently received his GED, was struggling with substance use issues and staff feared that Kerri was also at risk for drug use. However, Kerri's drug tests, required as a condition of her probation, were consistently negative.
Kerri obtained her GED in March of 2010. The following month, just a week before giving birth to her daughter, Kerri completed a state-recognized human services credential in child welfare. Because of the pressures of parenthood, Kerri did not feel ready to start attending college in the Fall of 2010 with the rest of her GED Plus cohort. However, she soon reached out to MY TURN staff to let them know that she was ready to start her college education.
With the help of MY TURN staff, Kerri enrolled at Massasoit Community College in January of 2011 and has completed her first semester with a "B" average. She has recently started her second year as a full-time student and is working toward an Associate degree in Child Care Administration. She is also planning to participate in MY TURN's internship program to gain experience working with children. The father of her child overcame his substance abuse issues and is now working full-time to help support his family. Kerri's daughter has just celebrated her first birthday and is healthy and happy. Kerri credits her daughter for giving her the motivation to be successful and a good mother.
When James took the college placement test before his first term of college at Portland Community College, he did so poorly on the writing portion that the college staff thought that he should see an advisor to sign up for disability services. The second time he took the test, he received an even lower score. However, James had just completed a 20-page paper required to earn his high school diploma and knew that his writing skills were stronger than the test indicated. James' College Success Coordinator at Open Meadow advocated on his behalf and he was permitted to submit a writing sample in lieu of the placement test score. Based on his writing sample, he was placed into a remedial writing class, in keeping with most of his peers.
During his first term, James took two classes and earned a 2.0 GPA. In his second term, he took four classes and earned a 3.7 GPA. The following term, he registered for four classes, including credit-bearing reading and writing courses and was on track to earn a 3.5 GPA. During his meetings with his College Success Coordinator, James identified strategies, study habits, and resources aimed at creating academic success. James finished the school year with a cumulative GPA of 2.9, up from his first-term GPA of 2.0. James was proud of his improvement and dedication during his first year of college and stated that he was no longer content with merely passing classes, but aimed to get A's and B's.
In the summer of 2011, James decided to move to Chicago and to attend Malcolm X City College of Chicago. He worked with his College Success Coordinator to identify programs, services and scholarships he could apply for to support his goals at Malcolm X City College. James is now attending Malcom X City College and is pursuing a degree in engineering. He stays in touch with his former College Success Coordinator at Open Meadow and reports that he is utilizing the skills he has learned during his year in the PSI to successfully navigate student services at his new college. During his involvement with PSI, James showed outstanding dedication as evidenced by his punctuality, preparedness, patience, and positive attitude. His College Success coordinator continues to be impressed with his success, self-advocacy, and study skills and James reports being proud of his accomplishments as well.
For more information about the PSI, please contact Yelena Nemoy at firstname.lastname@example.org.