GPC Gateway Fair offers at-risk students a second chance

05/03/2011
Contact: roger barnes
Phone: 678-891-2693
Fax: 678-891-2966
Author: roger Barnes

Miller Grove High School senior Quran James believes he is at risk of not graduating so he spent some time on Saturday working on an alternative plan. 

“I realize my grades aren’t going so well in school and I know I can do better but I stopped going to class,” James said. “I was looking for an opportunity to get back on track when I got this postcard from Georgia Perimeter College telling me about this Second Chance Fair.” 

On Saturday morning, instead of taking the day to relax, James visited GPC’s Clarkston Campus and joined 30 other at-risk high school students to learn about GPC’s Gateway to College Academy. 

“We’re a good place to re-start,” said Second Chance Educational Fair host and Gateway Director/Principal Robert Wigfall. “Our kids are at risk for a number of different reasons that are sometimes personal and not always centered on academics. They have either dropped out of high school or are headed down that road, and they’re looking for that second chance to complete their high school diploma and move on to college. 

“We provide a safe haven where they can focus on earning their high school diploma, if that’s what they really want to do,” Wigfall said. “We provide the instructors and the support team that helps them complete their goal of earning a high school diploma and we prepare them for college level work.” 

During the Second Chance Fair, Gateway Admissions and Outreach Recruiter Clifton Rawles told the audience that one year of high school dropouts cost U.S. citizens $329 billion in lost wages and tax revenues. 

“Fifty percent of African-American males will not graduate with their class,” Rawles said. “That’s 60 percent for Hispanic students. At Gateway you will find a rigorous high school program. You have a second chance, but you have to be prepared to work for what you want.” 

Rawles said Gateway also gives qualified students early exposure to college-level work through dual enrollment classes. 

Though the fair consisted of several presentations from Gateway administrators, prospective students also had the chance to hear from past Gateway graduates. 

“I attended three high schools and was out of high school for a couple of years before I heard about Gateway,” said Jovanna Gibbs-Arnold, who graduated from Gateway last spring. “I may not have made it without Gateway. Because this environment is not like high school, you’re on a college campus. That makes a difference and everyone here is also helpful.” 

Gibbs-Arnold said her grades were terrible before Gateway, but “I graduated last year and the fall I’ll complete an associate degree from Georgia Perimeter. I’ve been on the dean’s list every semester here,” she said. 

Gibbs-Arnold told the prospective students she plans on attending Agnes Scott College and will eventually enroll in law school. 

To enroll in Gateway, a student must be between 16 and 20 years old and eligible to attend a DeKalb County school, Wigfall said. Gateway is free for DeKalb County residents, but there is a $255 fee that is paid to Georgia Perimeter College each semester. 

DeKalb Tech, Job Core and the Georgia Department of Labor were also represented at the Second Chance Educational Fair. 

“Everyone will not be a good fit for Gateway,” Wigfall said. “Some may have aged-out for us but can still earn a GED and begin study at DeKalb Tech. Others may need employment while they continue their education. We invited other representatives to the fair to help us provide the best opportunities for these young men and women.” 

For more information on Gateway, contact Clifton Rawles, at 678-891-3223. GPC Clarkston Campus is located at 555 North Indian Creek Drive, Clarkston, Ga. 30021.

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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.