Grad Cincinnati is helping students get into college, escape poverty

Grad Cincinnati Is helping students get into college, escape poverty (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - It's graduation time and for low-income students, earning a college degree can be a ticket out of poverty.

But getting in and then paying for college is not easy. Thankfully there is a program that helps students from high-poverty communities.

For 22-year old Whitney Hollingsworth, going to college once was once just a dream.

The seventh of eight children from a low-income family, Whitney always wanted a university degree.

“Since being young I was a nerd pretty much, so I did like school,” said Whitney.

Now, Whitney is a senior at the University of Cincinnati, and she is majoring in information technology.

She's already been offered a job at Cincinnati Bell and she's obviously pretty smart.

Whitney says a program called “Grad Cincinnati” made college a reality for her.

The grad program is for all students in three Cincinnati high schools and four elementary schools where 9 out of 10 students live below the poverty line.

The Grad Program offers tutoring, family and social services, guidance on getting into college and college scholarships.

But for Whitney, who attended Western Hills High School, the biggest thing from the grad program was personal support, counseling and someone who'd listen.

“So I was able to talk to them about what was going on in my home, so I was able to focus on school instead of being emotionally distressed,” said Whitney.

It's also hard to focus on school if you're hungry. That's why the grad program at West High has a food pantry for kids to take things home.

Inspiration for that came after an administrator gave a student a ride home and asked if she'd like to stop at McDonald’s for a meal;

“And she said no, I’d rather get three $1 hamburgers and three $1 fries I said why and she said that way my mother and sister and I can eat all weekend. and we can share it. but if I just get one for me they won't be able to eat. and it was at that point that I decided we had to do something,” said Resource coordinator Angela Campbell-Harris.

The pantry is in its second year. Grad Cincinnati has been around for a decade, awarding more than $1 million in college scholarships to nearly 400 students. Those scholarships are now $1,500 apiece.

Once the participants in Grad Cincinnati become Cincinnati grads, graduates of Cincinnati public schools, Grad Cincinnati stays with them, trying to make sure they become college grads

For Whitney Hollingsworth, that means not just a scholarship, but also ongoing contact with mentors and counselors.

The grad program does not simply cut students loose after high school.

Whitney has one more year in college. Her degree, thanks to her own ability, perseverance, and help from Grad Cincinnati, is in sight.

“It's going to be a relief. it's going to be magical, because I remember when I was in high school. just looking at a UC shuttle was amazing to me. I was like oh wow, Whitney, you're going to be on that shuttle some day and actually being up here today and taking this long journey, I don't know what the word is, achieving my childhood dream, it's going to be magical,” said Whitney.

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