The College Success Foundation- District of Columbia (CSF- DC) prepares low- income, minority students in Wards 7 and 8 in D.C. for what some consider could be the best time of their lives: college.
CSF- DC is a branch of the College Success Foundation- Washington State, which was originally founded in 2000 by educational advocates Bob Craves and Ann Ramsay-Jenkins. Since its opening, over 14,500 students have participated in the CSF program in Washington State and Washington, D.C. The DC branch is located on 1220 12th St. in Southeast D.C., and currently operated by Herbert R. Tillery, the Executive Director and 16 other educational advocates who make up the Board of Directors.
Since 2007, CSF- DC has been fulfilling its mission to help underprivileged students finish high school and prepare for college. They assist them every step of the way, from filling out college applications to obtaining financial aid to offering support and encouragement.
One of CSF- DC’s programs is The Achievers Scholarship Program, which provides college preparation, social development, financial aid guidance, mentoring and a scholarship of up to $50,000 over four years to low income minority youth. During the fall semester of their junior year, students apply to be a part of the selective program. Their acceptance is based on four essays, an interview, grade point average and extracurricular activities. The Achievers are selected in the spring of their junior year and are enrolled in a summer college preparation program before they begin senior year. The number of Achievers selected depends on the number of students who apply. Upon graduating college, CSF- DC offers internship advising, graduate school workshops, career development and networking opportunities with their exclusive network.
Through a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CSF- DC has been able to impact the lives of youth throughout Northeast and Southeast D.C. They encourage students in six high schools to pursue higher education. The schools, which the Gates Foundation identified with the most need, are: Anacostia Senior High School, Ballou Senior High School, HD Woodson Senior High School, Maya Angelou Public Charter High School, Thurgood Marshall Public Charter High School and Friendship Collegiate Public Charter High School.
Like many CSF Achievers Scholars, Cindy Umana, a College Program Assistant, was a first generation college student. Umana, of Arlington Va., graduated from Marymount University but she didn’t have the resources that the Achievers have to help her succeed. She explained why CSF- DC is a rewarding environment to work in. “It’s important for students to have these opportunities,” she said. “It’s something that I didn’t have growing up. Applying to college is confusing and a lot to take in, so they need our support. ”
Another one of CFS– DC’s programs is HERO (Higher Education Readiness Opportunity), which prepares minority male students for college as early as the 7th grade. Through the program, these underrepresented men are offered academic advising, after school programs, leadership development, college awareness and test preparation among other services.
Danny Johnson, a 17- year- old junior at HD Woodson Senior High School in Northeast D.C., who is a part of the HERO program said, “It helped me from 8th grade to where I am now. The weekly meetings with my mentor helped keep my mind straight and focused on what I want to do. ” Johnson aspires to attend Virginia Commonwealth University and major in Mass Communications. He strongly recommends the program to students and firmly said, “The more education you have, the better opportunities you will get.”
Not only does CSF- DC provide assistance during the school year, but during the summer as well through their Summer Academic Enrichment Program. The four- week academic development program is held at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., and offers high school juniors, who are selected to be CSF Achievers Scholars, an intense session designed to help them succeed during their senior year and beyond.
Briana Vaughn, a senior at HD Woodson High School who completed the Summer Academic Enrichment Program, said, “I feel more prepared because without the program I wouldn’t know what to expect from college.” Although she doesn’t know what her major will be, Vaughn aspires to attend University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
CSF has the numbers to prove their effectiveness. In fact, studies have shown that an astounding 97% of CSF Achievers Scholars graduate high school while 68% receive their bachelor’s degree. Almost 2,000 students who were apart of the CSF- DC and Washington State received postsecondary degrees as well.
Programs such as CSF- DC, are taking the initiative to prevent minorities from becoming criminals and encouraging them to soar as scholars. Their tremendous effort readily prepares students for the next milestone in their life.