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New Program Helps Utica’s At-Risk Young Adults Attend College

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) – A Syracuse-based college success program is coming to Utica.

The On Point for College program helps at-risk young adults, between the ages of 17 and 25, go to college while providing them with full-range support before, during and after their graduation.

Peggy O’Shea, President and CEO for The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, says the On Point program is needed in Utica more than ever.

“Community data from the community indicators tells us that only 16 percent of adults in Utica have a bachelor’s degree, lower than the state of New York or the nation,” O’Shea said. “Unacceptable. This is a way to move that needle. It’s been proven, it’s highly regarded.”

Ginny Donohue, founder and Executive Director of On Point, says the program is successful because of support from the community.

“This is a mobile program, whereby, we’re going to go out into the community where the young people are, who are kind of falling through the cracks, and mainly just never thought that college was a possibility for them,” Donohue said. “[Our goal is to] find them and guide them through the process, not only to get into college, but we’re actually going to support them all the way through college.”

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

The project will operate with about $250,000 during its first year, an amount Donohue says will help about 75 students. Their goal is to get 50 of those students into college. The money is supplied by a $7.05 million College Access Challenge Grant awarded to the state by the U.S. Department of Education. Nearly $2 million was allocated to On Point to add programs in other cities.

Utica applied to be On Point’s newest replication city, and stepped up to present the best option for the program, compared to other prospective cities, including Buffalo and Rochester.

Of course, the project’s goal is to build a better future. Former students’ success stories provide a glimpse into the program’s practices. One former student, James Dit, recently graduated from SUNYIT with a degree in accounting. The Sudanese student started his college experience at Onondaga Community College, then moved on to SUNY Canton. His final stop was SUNYIT.

Dit’s advice to prospective students is simple.

“You can make it, so just keep trying and you’ll get wherever you want,” Dit said.

Since starting 13 years ago, On Point has helped more than 3,300 students graduate from college.

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