The process of applying for college can be overwhelming. At Children’s Aid, we understand how important it is to provide a clear road map so that young people can envision success after high school.
Our College Access and Success program serves more than 1,000 students from ages 14 to 24 who attend our community schools and centers. High school students and people working toward their high school equivalency are exposed to a variety of academic and career opportunities.
These opportunities include access to college tours, job fairs, and hands-on work experience like the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program, MSG Classroom, and JPMorgan Project Live. One-on-one mentoring ensures that students graduate on time and complete college and career applications.
Young people must consider many factors when deciding which school to attend. Our team begins working with students early to equip them with the information and skills to make the right decision. While a private school may look appealing, the additional costs of food, textbooks, and transportation can add up. Coaches help set students up for success by exploring appropriate options.
Once they’re in school, mentors reach out to students monthly to make sure they have the resources to succeed while working toward their degrees.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure all the young people we’re supporting have a really thoughtful post-secondary plan,” said Courtney Carrera-Ghatan, deputy director of youth partnerships and youth programs. “We are always in touch with these young people and we are always helping them to navigate the intricacies of higher education.”
In addition to academic and career support, students are granted scholarships to help ease the financial burden of attending college.
Courtney and her team make sure that every scholarship provided is renewable, which means that students can expect to receive the same amount every year. This year, Children’s Aid awarded a total of $33,000 to 14 students who are attending New York University, Fordham University, Hunter College, The Fashion Institute of Technology, Baruch College, and more.
Musayeroh Bah, who graduated from Curtis High School, a Children’s Aid community school on Staten Island, will be attending Smith College in the fall. As a scholarship recipient, she will enter college knowing that her housing is paid for.
"The Children's Aid scholarship is already helping me by allowing my parents and I to worry less about affording housing in college for not just this year, but the next four years,” she said. “It has kept our summer less stressful. In addition to that, having to do Summer Youth Employment Program is teaching me how to conduct myself in a real-world working environment, which will be very helpful for life beyond college.”
Students hoping to receive a scholarship provide an application with transcripts and an essay outlining their post-secondary plans. Every year, Carolyn Torres, manager of the College Access and Success program, finds creative ways to inform students that their hard work has paid off.
This year, Carolyn and her team visited the students at their respective schools to conduct an “interview.” Students believed this was the final step to secure a scholarship.
But once the interview process began, staff began to record the conversation, and students were surprised with a big check in their names.
Angela Sharpe, director of youth programs and partnerships, knows the difference a scholarship can make for the young people she works with. Many of them are the first in their families to attend college.
“When a young person has a scholarship, it’s a no brainer for them – ‘I can live my dream, I can go to college, I can explore my passions.’ I think minus that, a lot of students may be juggling in their mind an alternative plan outside of college,” she said. “Some folks may have to go directly into the workforce, or maybe there’s the stress of working while going to school to cover some of the costs. I think sometimes dreams become deferred when young people don’t have the financial support.”
The recipients were invited to a scholarship ceremony in May, where they celebrated their accomplishments along with NBA legend John Starks, a champion of Children’s Aid youth.
“It was magical,” Angela said. “That is the part of the work that is really heartfelt, and I really wish we could do that for even more young people – to give them the opportunity to go out there and make their dreams come true. That’s what this does for them.