YouthBridge Connections: College Bound
Making meaningful connections is a specialty of YouthBridge. “When I first shared the vision of College Bound with YouthBridge, they loved the concept. At the same time, they were honest about the grants and funders in their portfolio that they thought would and would not be a good fit,” says Scott Baier, President and CEO of College Bound. “Ultimately, they made the connection for us to a donor, which has been a profoundly impactful partnership.”
In one sentence, Baier describes the College Bound vision as “creating a world where achieving higher education isn’t predicted by socioeconomic status.” The organization, founded in 2006, works to help first-generation students (those that would be the first to go to college in their family) in low-income communities get to and through college with personalized support. This may include tutoring, ACT prep, college credit coursework, college application/scholarship guidance, job shadowing and internship connections, mental health services and more. Students can enroll in the College Bound long-term “To and Through” program the summer before 10th grade and receive support up until college graduation. In the “CB on Campus” program, services are provided on 2-year college campuses.
Through funding from the YouthBridge donor, College Bound opened an office on the campus of St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, where students can receive counseling, participate in study nights and social activities, and essentially “find help in staying on track with their goals,” says Baier. Students also can access an on-campus food pantry funded by the donor.
No matter where they end up attending college, students in the To and Through program of College Bound stay connected with their personal coach. Niya Harris, who graduated from Missouri State University (MSU) in December, says “I don’t know any other organization that stays with you like this. It could be 7 o’clock in the morning and my coach Linh would answer my call.”
Harris says she wasn’t even considering college when she first heard a presentation by College Bound at her school, but afterward began to believe it was a possibility. She admits to struggling a bit in college at first, not expecting it to be as difficult as it was, and transferred to a community college for a time before returning to MSU to successfully complete her degree in Sports and Entertainment Management. She now has a full-time job with Fox 2 in St. Louis. “I just kept going and going and going, and it made the difference to have people like Linh and the people at College Bound that care about me and feel like family on my side.”
According to Baier, College Bound students are graduating college at a rate nearly 500% higher than their demographics would predict, and many are graduating college with zero debt. “Our students face a lot of barriers and are too often left behind,” he says. “We’re working to help make their college and career dreams more attainable and affordable, because they deserve the same life of choice and opportunity as everyone else.”
If you would like to donate or have any questions about this organization, please contact Allison McDonald.