College Scholarships Help D.C.’s Most Vulnerable

Foundation Paves the Way for Youth in Wards 7, 8

Black male students from Wards 7 and 8 shared their stories on how they overcame bad neighborhoods and adversity to set their horizons on college with the help of one local organization.

College Success Foundation of the District of Columbia held its eighth annual breakfast fundraiser, which was attended by local officials, philanthropists and scholars at The Capital Hilton on Thursday, Oct. 22 in Northwest.

“Our vision is to level the playing field by providing bright low-income students with the resources they need to attend college,” Herb Tillery, executive director of College Success Foundation – DC said.

“There is no question that scholarships matter. CSF scholars represent the bottom third of the income bracket for families in D.C.”

Founded in 2006, CSF-DC started as a nonprofit addressing the critically low graduation rates of students in the District of Columbia Public School System and public charter schools particularly in Wards 7 and 8.

Students who joined CSF-DC as Achiever Scholars have seen rapid growth in achievement.

“When we first opened an office in 2007 in Southeast D.C. it was to solve the disparity of college access,” Tillery said. “Back then in Wards 7 and 8 one-third of ninth graders graduated high school, and only 5 percent of them earned a college degree.”

“The good news is the high school graduation rate went from 33 percent to 97 percent, and the college graduation rate went from five percent to 43 percent,” he said. “We accomplished this through holistic support including financial, social and emotional.”

Between the years 208 -2014, CSF-DC disbursed 32.8 million in scholarships, and 6.9 million in the year 2014 alone.

“Our goal is to stop intergenerational poverty that holds kids back,” Tillery said.

Nico Roach, a high school senior born and raised in Southeast DC almost went down the wrong path, but he claims CSF-DC saved him.

“In elementary school I didn’t think school was important. I was always getting into trouble,” Roach said.

While attending Hart Middle School in Southeast Roach became a part of the HERO program, a subsidiary of CSF-DC that identifies promising young men and women of color informing them about college before they make critical decisions to limit their choices.

“The day I decided to make that positive change was the best thing I ever did,” Roach said. “I’ve had new adventures I never thought I would experience.”

I had the glorious chance of meeting President Barack Obama, and I’ve been out of the country to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. I’ve also traveled to Boston, Philly and Wilmington, North Carolina.”

Roach praised the leadership of CSF-DC for being role models.

“They taught me how to be a leader, respect myself and advocate for myself,” he said.

The keynote speaker for the fundraiser, Mayor Muriel Bowser, wants to continue to push for access to college for all students in the District.

“Regardless of income and family background we want students to be able to go to college,” Bowser said. “Having a college degree is so important to ensure you have many more options.”

Bowser beams at the fact that D.C. has the number one spot for Free Application for Federal Student Aid completion in the U.S.

“That lets me know students in the District are excited and ready to receive a higher education.”

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Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s millennial publication. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, she attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. A proud southern girl, her lineage can be traced to the Gullah people inhabiting the low-country of South Carolina. The history of the Gullah people and the Geechee Dialect can be found on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In her spare time she enjoys watching either college football or the Food Channel and experimenting with make-up. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at E-mail: Social Media Handles: Twitter: @dreamersexpress, Instagram: @Sarafinasaid, Snapchat: @Sarafinasaid

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