Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses' new focus on shepherding Dot's youth onto the college track is bearing fruit, says director Mark Culliton. In what was once called FDNH's GED program - but now is referred to as college prep 0 14 former high school dropouts have entered college.
"I always wanted to go to college, but I didn't want to go to high school," said 19-year-old Jazmen Huggins, a Dorchester resident and former Charlestown High School student who took FDNH's program from July to August this year. "It was like an epidemic at school, everybody was dropping out."
Huggins started Bunker Hill Community College this week, with an eye towards a degree in business administration.
At the Log School's College Prep program on Bowdoin Street she completed her GED, took the SAT and the Accuplacement test and signed up for college.
"It did me well," said Huggins. "It made me feel like learning wasn't so bad. I went every single day because I was serious about it. I already had college in my head but I think it definitely opens other people's eyes to it."
Mamadou Ndiaye, director of the alternative and adult education programs at FDNH, said in addition to the new college tests added to the program's goals, there is also a new case management component that follows students all the way to college graduation. He said he expects five or so more youth to get into college this year and hopes to bring the rate up to 40 college-bound dropouts next year.
"This is year one for us," said Ndiaye. "It's incredibly difficult work because all of our students are dropouts. They have issues in terms of violence in the home, pregnancy and substance abuse in the home. We are their last chance at academic success."
Culliton said he hopes to engage other partners as Federated scales back and refocuses its far-flung enterprises on education and pushing the college track for all neighborhood youth.
"We want to fix our own house and then let people know what were doing, to lay the groundwork for [collaboration]," said Culliton.