Officials in the City of Utica have long been searching for a way to boost the economy, education and morale throughout the city. Our Andrew Sorensen tells about a new program coming in from Syracuse, which city officials hope will be the key to the future.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Abraham Achiek's village in Sudan was attacked in 1987 and he spent several years as a refugee in Ethiopia and Kenya before he came to the United States. With the help of On Point for College, Abraham went to school at SUNY Oswego and received a Bachelor's degree in geology.
"Where I came from, there is not (sic) people that go to school, so when I get this opportunity, I try to get to learn so much so that sometime I can help the people who are in need," he said.
People who have participated in On Point in Syracuse say it changed their lives. Now On Point is looking to change lives in Utica after the city won a bid for one of the program's first expansions.
"Utica just came on so strong with support of over 40 organizations, it just blew us out of the water and we knew this is where we were meant to be," founder and executive director Ginny Donahue said.
Several alumni showed up at Tuesday's expansion announcement. Most, like Achiek, or even Calmesha Givens, have led tough but inspirational lives.
"I went from being involved in all those different activities, cheerleading and everything, to becoming involved in a gang," Givens, who graduated Howard University, said.
Alumni say On Point provides an alternative path by helping at-risk youths get into college, as well as providing everything a student needs.
"When I needed assistance with books, I needed transportation back and forth to college, you know, a conversation on the phone to try to figure out what's going on with my classes, am I choosing too many classes?" Givens said for all of these things, they were there.
On Point is setting up their headquarters at the MVCC Educational Opportunities Center, but you'd be more likely to find them out on the streets.
“We go everywhere, we go to GED sites, refugee schools, we try to find the people who are falling through the cracks.”
Donahue says saving just one person from slipping through the cracks can make a big difference in a city where just over 10 percent of people have a Bachelor's degree.
"If they go to college, it not only changes their lives, frequently their siblings go to college and certainly their children will go. The multiplier effect is unimaginable, almost," she said.
Utica officials at the ceremony commended the program, hoping that giving a brighter future to Utica's youths might give a brighter future to the rest of the city. You can find out more about On Point for College at onpointforcollege.org.