Our January charitable partner is College Bound Dorchester. They work with young people deemed too difficult to engage; those that the rest of the world walks away from. They focus their efforts on the "Core Influencers," the young people who are leaders among their peers and drive the violence and disruption in the streets.
College Bound prepares students to thrive in professionally and academically rigorous environments and stay motivated through the challenges of breaking cycles of dysfunction. Their core work revolves around the College Connections intervention model, which provides intensive academic and social-emotional support to equip students to overcome the barriers on their path to and through college.
Michelle Calderia, Senior Vice President, answers our questions below!
RSVP to our event on January 25th (tomorrow!) to help support.
1. How did you first get involved with College Bound Dorchester?
A nonprofit colleague introduced me to Mark Culliton, founder and CEO of College Bound. In our first conversations, he shared his vision of transforming neighborhoods stuck in cycles of disruption by engaging the most off-track kids in those communities and putting them on a path to college. This unique idea with an entrepreneurial approach felt like something I wanted to be involved in.
2. As an organization helping at-risk young people graduate, what do you find most challenging?
Shifting mindset. Many people don't believe that young people who have been off-track for so long, that young people who are engaged in disruptive behaviors can go to college or even desire to go to college. At College Bound, we believe in the genius and possibility of every young person and know that with the right support, they can be successful.
3. What's the best thing to happen since you started working at College Bound?
In the last few years, thanks to the incredible support from so many, we have increased the number of students we are able to serve each year. We have gone from serving 280 students in 2012 to more than 600 last year. Our continued growth is one of the best things I can think of because it means opening the doors of opportunity for so many more young people.
4. What trends do you think will change or impact College accessibility over the next 5 years?
Student loan debt and affordability are key issues. I think we will continue to see more programs at the federal level that offers low-cost or even free pathways to a college degree. Or at least, that is my hope.
5. If you weren't working at College Bound, what would you be doing instead?
If not at College Bound, I would still hope to be in an organization seeking to have an impact through education. If not working, I would be traveling full time.
6. What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating or volunteering?
Any donation of time or treasure is incredibly impactful for our students. It helps them see that there are people out there who believe they can be successful and encourages them to keep pushing forward.
7. Please describe a "typical" day in your role.
A "typical" day is spent sharing the stories of our students' successes and pursuing resources to make more happen.
8. Is there anything else you'd want someone to know about your organization or the importance of sending at-risk young people to college?
We consider ourselves a learning organization. We look for ways to do more and do more better every day. Our focus on getting the most off-track young people into college is important because education is transformational. A college degree can break cycles of poverty.