On Point for College Makes Higher Education a Reality for SCSD Students
Published on 12/12/16
Nottingham High School
Dakir Thompson’s junior year at Nottingham wasn’t easy. He was facing some issues at home and was living with his aunt at the time. He heard talk of college while he was at school, but nowhere else. In fact, he wasn’t sure that people like him went to college.
“I didn’t plan on going to college,” Dakir recalled. “I didn’t believe that black people went to college.”
Then, his cousin found out about On Point for College. One evening, she forced him to accompany her to the Boys and Girls Club to sign up for the program. “I had a sour face on the whole time,” he said with a laugh. Soon, he was on college visits – walking around SUNY Morrisville, Oneonta and Buffalo.
“On those visits, I saw people who looked like me,” Dakir explained. “It slowly started to become a reality. Seeing a college campus in person instead of on TV or in a movie… that made it real and it made it seem possible. I wouldn’t ever have visited a college if it wasn’t for On Point for College.”
From there, Dakir said, the network of On Point employees and volunteers persuaded him to take the next step and enroll in a college. After his high school graduation in 2012, he selected Morrisville and worked his way through, earning an Associate degree in Applied Science. There were challenges, but On Point was there every step of the way.
Take, for instance, the issue of dorm supplies. “They gave me a book bag and supplies like pillows and comforters to help me get settled,” he recalled. “I still have that book bag. They even took me out to get clothes and whatever else I needed for college. It was amazing, and it helped out a lot.”
Transportation was an issue, too. “I utilized their transportation services,” Dakir said. “It wasn’t until my years in college that I realized I wouldn’t have been able to go to college if it wasn’t for their system of volunteer drivers.”
Beyond the necessities, though, Dakir said the biggest advantage On Point for College provided him has been relationships.
“I have met volunteers and staff who have been very helpful to me,” he said. “I still talk to some of them today, Like Kathy.”
Kathy Scott was a volunteer driver who helped Dakir get to college. Through On Point, Dakir was offered the ability to stay in on-campus housing over school breaks. It was a nice perk, he recalled, until he realized that he needed food.
“I had no idea how to make anything,” he explained. “Kathy came during break and brought some food and taught me how to make chili. It was awesome, for her to come all the way out there.”
He also speaks highly of On Point Director of Development staff member Fritz Diddle, who is providing him with another valuable life skill.
“No one I know has a car,” Dakir said. “Fritz has challenged me. He said, one day you’re going to want to know how to drive! So he has encouraged me to let him take me out driving and he’s teaching me. It’s very encouraging to see people who genuinely want to help you and see you succeed. To this day, I think of the people I’ve been on this journey with at On Point… they’re like family.”
Since On Point for College was founded in 1999, the organization has helped more than 5,800 students like Dakir go to college. Currently, more than 2,500 On Point students are enrolled in colleges throughout New York, and the group helps about 350-400 new freshmen attend college each year.
“Our goal is to provide students with access to services they may not otherwise have,” Executive Director Samuel Rowser explained. “Usually, to stay in a program, students need to fit a certain profile and maintain a certain grade point average. At On Point for College, we meet students where they are, treating each student as an individual and giving them the support that they need.”
Students are encouraged to work with their school guidance counselors if they have questions about the college application process, Mr. Rowser said, but sometimes getting help during the school day isn’t feasible for everyone.
“One of our greatest assets is our availability to assist students at non-conventional times,” he said. “Problems don’t always arise between 9-5. If a student has an after school job and doesn’t get off until 7 o’clock, they can still call us. Sometimes we’re at the Boys and Girls Club until 8 or 9 at night! We try to find locations across the city so we are near where students live and it’s convenient for them to get to us.”
Dakir Thompson, Nottingham Class of ’12 and the first in his family to graduate from high school, is now a student at LeMoyne College, where he is studying Computer Science with a minor in Biology. Upon graduation, he hopes to work in the industry and find a company that is willing to pay for his graduate studies. He dreams of working in data science or engineering.
His advice to current high school students? “It’s possible,” he says without hesitation. “Don’t let your current situation or circumstances fill you with self-doubt.”
To find out more about how On Point for College could help your child, speak with a SCSD guidance counselor, call (315) 362-5003 or visit onpointforcollege.org. Thank you, On Point for College, for all you do to help our students become #SCSDCollegeReady and #SCSDCareerReady!
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