Mem­bers seek con­tin­ued fund­ing for col­lege bound pro­gram

Im­plore county coun­cil to rec­og­nize pro­gram’s mer­its

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­

The Prince Ge­orge’s County Coun­cil held a pub­lic hear­ing April 12 at the County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in Up­per Marl­boro for the pur­pose of ap­prov­ing and adopt­ing Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 16-2016 for the De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment’s Fis­cal Year 2017 An- nual Ac­tion Plan (AAP).

CR-16-2016 is a res­o­lu­tion in­tro­duced late last month con­cern­ing DHCD’s AAP, a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy that de­scribes ac­tions, ac­tiv­i­ties and pro­grams that will take place dur­ing FY 2017 to ad­dress pri­or­ity needs and spe­cific ob­jec­tives iden­ti­fied in the FY 2016-2020 con­sol­i­dated plan adopted in 2015. The con­sol­i­dated plan is re­quired by the U.S. De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban

De­vel­op­ment as a pre­req­ui­site for con­sid­er­a­tion of the fund­ing ap­pli­ca­tions plan for fed­eral en­ti­tle­ments in­clud­ing the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grant, Emer­gency So­lu­tions Grants and HOME In­vest­ment Part­ner­ships Pro­grams funds, ac­cord­ing to an agenda item sum­mary sheet from the coun­cil’s of­fice.

Most of the tes­ti­monies at the hear­ing came from stu­dents and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from First Gen­er­a­tion Col­lege Bound Inc., urg­ing the coun­cil to sup­port con­tin­ued fund­ing for the pro­gram.

“We had tes­ti­monies from about 20 or 30 in­di­vid­u­als,” said Coun­cil Chair­man Der­rick L. Davis (D). “The one that leaps to mind first is the First Gen­er­a­tion Col­lege Bound [FGCB pro­gram] and how we sup­port their ef­forts to en­sure that low-in­come and folks who might not have had an op­por­tu­nity to go to col­lege un­der­stand how to uti­lize the sys­tem, make it to col­lege and find ways to pay for col­lege.”

Founded by Joseph Fisher in 1990, FGCB is a grass­roots, pri­vate non­profit based in Prince Ge­orge’s com­mit­ted to in­vest­ing in the de­vel­op­ment, growth, and well­ness of chil­dren as it re­lates to higher ed­u­ca­tion. FGCB ex­ists to em­power youth from low- to mod­er­ate-in­come fam­i­lies to achieve so­cial and eco­nomic suc­cess by pro­vid­ing guid­ance, en­cour­age­ment and sup­port in ob­tain­ing a col­lege de­gree. The or­ga­ni­za­tion func­tions to ad­dress the need for out­side of school and col­lege ac­cess sup­ports to in­crease the num­ber of low-in­come stu­dents who grad­u­ate from high school pre­pared for col­lege, en­rolled in qual­ity in­sti­tu­tions and ma­tric­u­late in four years, ac­cord­ing to the FGCB web­site.

“This was a sac­ri­fice I made 26 years ago and I have great pas­sion,” Fisher said. “There are young men and women, like my­self, grow­ing up with par­ents do­ing as best they could. They didn’t re­al­ize that they had re­sources for their kids to go to col­lege. … Many peo­ple are un­aware of that just be­cause [of] what the Pell Grant is able to do, es­pe­cially [for] low-in­come stu­dents like my­self grad­u­at­ing high school. This was some­thing that I fig­ured out … I want you to know that this has to con­tinue.”

Last year, Fisher said FGCB was awarded $50,000 and is be­ing rec­om­mended for $30,000 this year. How­ever, he said there is “a big need for the work that we do.”

“When our funds are cut, it’s go­ing to hurt us,” Fisher said. “I ask that you please con­tinue to sup­port us, help us to grow to meet the needs of low-in­come fam­i­lies in Prince Ge­orge’s County.”

FGCB Pro­gram Man­ager Ray­mond Har­rod spoke about how the pro­gram — which is sup­ported by the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grant — has been ben­e­fi­cial for so many stu­dents through­out the county.

“You re­quested for us to do some work in your dis­tricts and we have de­liv­ered those things in ad­di­tion to us work­ing with se­niors at Cen­tral, Fair­mont Heights, Lau­rel, Park­dale and Po­tomac High schools. This year, we im­ple­mented a small part­ner­ship with North­west­ern High School as re­quested,” Har­rod said. “We con­tinue to sup­port the en­tire Prince Ge­orge’s County school sys­tem by also pro­vid­ing ser­vices at the Academy of Health and Sciences at Prince Ge­orge’s Com­mu­nity Col­lege, Bladens­burg High School and Charles Her­bert Flow­ers High School.”

In ad­di­tion to its col­lege ac­cess ser­vices, FGCB has a com­mu­nity home­work club that works with about 40 stu­dents liv­ing in Kim­berly Gar­dens, a low in­come res­i­den­tial hous­ing com­plex lo­cated in Lau­rel. The pro­gram is staffed by cer­ti­fied teach­ers who pro­vide on-site home­work as­sis­tance and other aca­demic sup­port, Har­rod said.

The club is sep­a­rated by grade level — Home­work Club I is de­signed for first through sixth graders, and Home­work Club II is for seventh through 12th graders. The stu­dents are ex­posed to pos­i­tive role mod­els from their com­mu­nity, as well as par­tic­i­pate in age-ap­pro­pri­ate lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment, sup­ple­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion, cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, ex­po­sure to post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion and case man­age­ment ser­vices. The three ob­jec­tives of the pro­gram in­cludes in­creas­ing be­hav­iors so that stu­dents master the rig­ors of meet­ing ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards and progress to post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion; sup­port­ing the county school sys­tem’s pri­or­ity to re­duce ab­sen­teeism and en­sure that stu­dents achieve high aca­demic stan­dards in the core cur­ricu­lum ar­eas and will grad­u­ate from high school; and thirdly, de­crease the large gaps that per­sist for at-risk stu­dents’ ac­cess and suc­cess in higher ed­u­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to FGCB’s web­site.

“The stu­dents en­joy it and we lit­er­ally get to see stu­dents start at first grade, move their way up to 12th grade, en­ter col­lege and grad­u­ate from col­lege as well. We have sev­eral stu­dents who are cur­rently ben­e­fit­ting from First Gen­er­a­tion Col­lege Bounds ser­vices, stu­dents who are in our col­lege ac­cess pro­gram, stu­dents who we’ve been work­ing with since mid­dle school as well as one col­lege stu­dent and a prin­ci­pal at Forestville High School,” Har­rod said.

For Forestville High School se­nior Tyree Wil­liams, 17, FGCB helped him over­come a dif­fi­cult ob­sta­cle dur­ing the last three years. Wil­liams be­gan to lose fo­cus in school af­ter los­ing his mother in 2014, as well as his fa­ther and step­dad a short time later. He said their un­timely deaths im­pacted his life in a neg­a­tive way, es­pe­cially aca­dem­i­cally.

As much as he wanted to do well in school, Wil­liams said he could “no longer fo­cus on what was im­por­tant.”

“I be­gan to fear who would be next to per­ma­nently leave my life. It was dif­fi­cult to sleep at night and re­main pos­i­tive of my fu­ture,” Wil­liams said. “I know that ev­ery sin­gle one of them want the best for me and [FGCB] is what made me get my drive back and con­tinue to get on the road for my se­nior year.”

Nathaniel Laney, Forestville’s prin­ci­pal, spoke on be­half of Wil­liams. He said Wil­liams and his older sib­lings have re­mained tight as a fam­ily and en­cour­aged each other dur­ing those tragic mo­ments.

“I re­ally give Tyree the credit. Some­times we don’t know the po­si­tion of the fam­ily and things that hap­pen [and] how they have dif­fer­ent im­pacts,” Laney said. “Tyree has con­tin­ued to draw as much pos­i­tive en­ergy as he can around the school, from the staff, from his friends, from the foot­ball team. … As he went through ad­ver­sity, he re­mained fo­cused. I just think he needs an op­por­tu­nity, a grant, a chance, to live up to his dreams. … All I can do is ask that you sup­port him as he moves for­ward in life.”

For other stu­dents like Adi­lene Mar­quez who have over­come ad­ver­sity af­ter los­ing her fa­ther and be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted, she said FGCB gave her a sec­ond chance at life.

“I had de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety so it kind of threw me off in school and re­ally got me off track,” Mar­quez said. “I started to doubt my­self and thought that col­lege wasn’t an op­tion for me. But later, I was in­tro­duced to First Gen­er­a­tion Col­lege Bound and they re­ally helped me and guided me through the whole col­lege process in ap­ply­ing for grants. I never re­ally knew that grants ex­isted or any­thing so they re­ally opened up the op­por­tu­nity to go to col­lege for me. And now I plan on at­tend­ing Tow­son for the fall. I thank them so much for that op­por­tu­nity.”

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