Thursday, September 27, 2012

Working to send Delta students to college

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 5:58 AM

FIRST PARIS; NOW COLLEGE: Teach for Americas Gabriel Fotsing is working to expand horizons for Delta kids.
  • FIRST PARIS; NOW COLLEGE: Teach for America's Gabriel Fotsing is working to expand horizons for Delta kids.
You may not remember Gabriel Fotsing. He's the Harvard grad and Teach for America member who led a group of Marianna students who'd taken his French class to Paris last summer.

I've heard again about Fotsing's work. He's seeking support for this new initiative, to work after school with juniors and seniors with a goal of sending 600 students from the Delta to college. He explains:

During my first year of teaching, I had multiple seniors coming to me for help during their spring semester. They wanted help regarding the college application. I gladly accepted. Unfortunately, for most of them there was nothing I could do. Some had never taken the ACT or the SAT which meant that they could not apply. Others, who had taken the test, had not scored high enough to gain admission. Furthermore, so many had not filled out their FAFSA and therefore did not qualify for financial aid. There was little I could do to help.

Frustrated, I decided to shake things up a bit. We started offering college prep workshops dealing with every aspect of the college application process, from picking a college, to prepping for the ACT, to filling out the FAFSA, we did it all. We’ve had some success; a student of ours is at Washington University in St. Louis on full scholarship, another was the first at our school to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship, and the class of 2012 at my school beat all records in terms of scholarship money. We want to duplicate this at other schools throughout the Delta.

With these in mind I decided to start the College Initiative, a nonprofit agency that will provide motivated, college capable low-income students with both the tools and the mentorship necessary to enter into and complete a four-year college degree program. My experience here in the Delta has taught me one thing: no kid grows up wanting to be mediocre or average, let alone below average. All students want better lives for themselves and their families, and they understand the crucial advantage they would gain from a college education. Yet, they do not have the tools or the mentorship to get there.

With your support, we can give these students a fighting chance. We are in desperate need of college prep books and tutors to help change the life trajectories of our students here in the Mississippi Delta. We believe that a kid from Marianna, Arkansas should have the same opportunity to attend the university of her choice, as a kid from Beverly Hills.

We are hoping to reach 600 students this year. Therefore, we are asking for as much support as you can offer. You can donate online, or by sending us a check made payable to the College Initiative at this address: 87 West Tennessee Street, Marianna AR 72360. All donations are tax deductible. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your support.

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