New program to help high school dropouts earn diplomas, college credit

South Texas College has received a $325,000 start-up grant from the Gateway to College National Network to implement the Gateway to College Program, a nationally recognized dropout recovery program.

Gateway to College is designed for young adults ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school or are significantly behind in credits and unlikely to graduate. The program enables them to earn their high school diploma requirements while simultaneously earning college credit toward an associate degree or certificate.

“With the continuous rise of dropouts coupled with state budget cuts, this program will bring some needed relief,” explained Michael Wilson, director of STC’s Gateway to College Program. “We have seen the evidence that people can be very successful if someone takes the chance to believe in them – gives them the opportunity to show that one mistake will not define their entire lives. Some of these drop outs made poor life choices and others simply had to leave school to support their families. No matter the circumstances, they are all members of our community that have something valuable to offer. They can go on to accomplish any goal they set their minds to and work with us all to make the Valley an even better place to live and work.”

Up to 300 students from Mission CISD and McAllen ISD will be served through the program over the next three years. Students must meet specific criteria for entrance into the program and will be dually enrolled at their school district and South Texas College until they complete their high school diploma. Tuition and books are free for students enrolled in Gateway to College Program.

Students are placed into small learning communities during their first term, and together they take classes in reading, writing, math and college skills. After completing the first term, students transition to the comprehensive campus, taking classes with the general student population. Throughout their enrollment in the program, students receive one-on-one advising and support from resource specialists who act as coaches, mentors and advisors. The wrap-around support of the resource specialist keeps students on the right track for success.

Students graduate from the Gateway to College Program once they have earned their high school diploma requirements. Nationally, program students accrue an average of 35 college credits by the time they graduate from high school, putting them well on their way to earning a college credential.

“Due to a variety of reasons, unfortunately there are students who end up not being college and/or career ready. The Gateway to College Program allows a student to get an individualized education from professional mentors that guide them to becoming productive members of our community,” said McAllen ISD Superintendent James Ponce.

South Texas College is one of 30 community and technical colleges across the country selected for the Gateway to College Program. For more information about the program visit www.stcgateway.info or contact Abril Teran, STC resource specialist, at 956-872-6301 or at ateran@southtexascollege.edu.

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