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Alumni News

Gateway to College Graduates 12, Shows Struggling Students Can Succeed


Twelve New Haven high school students who experienced different challenges while completing schoolwork had the pleasure of experiencing their high school graduation June 6 at Gateway Community College.

Many of the students, part of the Gateway to College program, spoke of the difficulties they found getting through high school. Kam’ron Prescott-Zollarcoffer became frustrated and angry while trying to get through school during her recovery from a serious car accident. Naama Gorham described herself as simply “a body in a seat” in high school classes.

Gateway to College allows students who have dropped out of high school, or are significantly off track for completing their credits, to earn their diploma while simultaneously earning college credits toward a post-secondary credential. The program is the first of its kind in the state targeted at this type of student profile.

Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Kosinski told graduates to relish their achievements, realizing that there are many people throughout the world who will not see inside a college campus as they have. He advised students to stay the course and complete their credential at GCC.

Keynote speaker Patricia Coleman-Williams, a member of the founding team of the Gateway to College Program, noted that students in the program overcame such difficulties as absentee parents, hunger and homelessness, but they persevered. Williams herself dropped out of high school at seventeen, yet she did not give up on getting an education and earned all of her degrees as a non-traditional student. She collected her first degree, summa cum laude, from Fordham University, while working full-time, attending school full-time, and raising five children. Coleman-Williams went on to earn a M.A. in Liberal Studies from Fordham and she received her Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.

Erik Murrell, LMSW, Associate Director of Gateway to College, said that the program is showing students what they can accomplish in a college setting.

“What’s special about our graduation is that these are students who were disconnected, dejected, disengaged, and likely wouldn’t have completed high school while currently seven of our 12 graduates are continuing studies here at GCC in chosen career pathways,” Murrell said.

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