In February of this year, our Executive Director Bob Gittens took the residents of TLC and Putnam Place on a college tour to Northeastern University, to show them an example of the college experience. After that visit, many of our group home residents still had a lot of questions about how higher education might or might not be an option for them, so Bob made visits to each of the group homes to talk with the residents about it in more depth.
At both group homes, the conversation began with the residents sharing that the Northeastern tour had made them feel discouraged more than anything else. After getting a small taste of what college could be like, some residents weren’t convinced they would fit in or even enjoy college, and many of them were concerned that they’d never be able to pay for it.
So Bob began by talking about how paying for college is not as out of their reach as they assume. He spoke about the many different programs available to young people just like our residents through the state at both public and private universities that would directly support their tuition, such as the Torch Scholars Program at Northeastern University, the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and Per Scholas. He also talked about the option of attending a two-year college to get an Associate’s Degree, and then transferring to a four-year college to finish a Bachelor’s Degree. One resident shared that he plans to attend Roxbury Community College for two years to get all of his prerequisite courses out of the way, and then transfer to a four-year university to study pre-med.
Bob and the residents talked about the benefits of attending college, even when they’re not sure what they want to study or what track they want to be on. College would give residents the chance to explore, build their networks and make friends, develop skills that they can’t learn anywhere else and socialize with their peers in a way they couldn’t in the “real world”. Some of the group home social workers shared their own college experiences, saying that they couldn’t be where they are today without having gone to college.
One resident said he didn’t think he’d like college because he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough at “one thing” and doesn’t enjoy high school. Bob and the group home staff discussed the joys of exploring different courses in college, and how it doesn’t feel like work when you’re studying something you’re interested in. In response, that resident spoke about his love of music and how he is interested in pursuing music production. He also asked if colleges offer assistance for students with learning challenges, as he personally struggles with note-taking. One of the group home social workers told him about a program in her college where students were hired to take notes for other anonymous classmates who needed that type of assistance.
At the end of the conversation, residents seemed to walk away with a new perspective on higher education. One resident, who’d previously had his mind set on entering the workforce after high school, is now considering college as a realistic option.