UW program helps high school students with college dreamon January 20, 2011 @ 6:26 pm (Updated: 1:30 pm - 3/28/11 )
Applying to college can be a nightmare, but imagine trying to navigate through the process if you're the first person in your family to go and you don't have the money to pay for it.
The University of Washington's Dream Project is making college a reality for thousands of high school students who never thought it would be possible.
Cassandra Berhe-Tyner remembers how she felt when she was a senior at Ingraham High School.
"I really had no one to turn to to help me through the application process. I didn't know what that was about or how to go about it. I remember feeling really lost," Berhe-Tyner said.
So when she heard about the Dream Project at the UW, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. Berhe-Tyner is one of two students who teach other university students how to become experts on the college application process. They, in turn, help high school kids reach their goals.
Italiana Hughes got help from the Dream Project several years ago when she was at Cleveland High School.
"My mom didn't go to college. My dad didn't go to college and my dad wasn't around much in my early childhood," Hughes said.
She says her mentor helped her navigate through the maze of scholarship and financial aid forms.
"I didn't know if my grades were good enough, I didn't think they were. I didn't obviously have the money at all to go to college at all. My family couldn't fund it at all. Without the Dream Project, I wouldn't be here today."
Now, the UW sophomore is on the other side of the table, mentoring low-income students at her former high school so they too can have a chance to go to college.
The Dream Project does more than just help students get in the door.
"When they get here, we have this amazing community in waiting that they can study with, party with, socialize with, and that they can befriend, and they can live with. And that helps them get all the way to graduation," explained Stan Chernicoff, the project's faculty advisor.
"If they don't have mentors, if they don't have people to share the experience with, they don't have people to commiserate with when things don't go well and to celebrate when things to go well, they won't persist and they won't graduate," Chernicoff said.
The Dream Project has grown over the years, with more than 300 UW mentors now being paired with students at 16 high schools in the Puget Sound area.
Chernicoff has been teaching for more than 30 years and says he couldn't be prouder of the students who are so passionate about making college possible for others.
"Out of all the years I've worked with students and all the students with whom I've worked, these are the best of the best because they are the most giving. This group of students has dedicated itself to the welfare of other people."
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