Gateway to College Grads Go from Dropouts to Success Stories

05/20/2013
Contact: Beverly James
Phone: 678-891-2686
Fax: 678-891-2966
Author: Beverly James

For Immediate Release

Gabriel Gillott hated high school so much that he dropped out twice. Christina Ross was expelled for a year after pulling a prank. Neither thought they would ever receive a high school diploma, and college was out of the question.

On May 9, Gillott and Ross joined four others in graduating from Gateway to College Academy at Georgia Perimeter College. The six students not only earned high school diplomas, but also graduated with an average of 20 college credits and the confidence to continue.

Gateway is a national program that partners local colleges and school districts to help high school dropouts and those who are disengaged. The program enrolls disengaged students ages 16 to 20 and allows them to simultaneously earn high school and college credits. Housed at GPC Clarkston Campus, Gateway to College provides intensive advising, counseling and mentoring.

“This is the best time of year for the Gateway staff and students because we come together to celebrate all of our hard work and persistence,” said Gateway Director Robert Wigfall. “You graduates are proof that the intensive, individualized tutoring and mentoring make a huge difference in your ability to succeed. And we have to thank the parents—who were probably very frustrated at times—for hanging in there and being such a big part of your children’s success.”

For Gillott and Ross, the program meant the difference between being high school dropouts and becoming college students. They both admit to rocky starts at Gateway.

“I hated every bit of high school—the huge class sizes, never being challenged and feeling like no one cared if I showed up or not,” Gillott said. After dropping out a second time, Gillott’s mother mentioned Gateway and encouraged her son to enroll.

“Gateway saved my life and helped me dream again. I love the small classes, the level of devotion of the teachers and resource specialists and the ability to take college classes that really challenge me,” Gillott said. “I wouldn’t have met these goals if I had stayed in high school. Now, the sky is the limit.”

Gillott plans to earn an associate degree from GPC in English, transfer to Columbia University and, one day, attend law school.

For Ross, a poor decision and a history of truancy led to dire consequences.

It took just a second for Ross to pull the fire alarm in her Gwinnett County public high school, but the consequences would last much longer. The then 10th -grader was expelled for a full year for the thoughtless prank. Her options limited, the family moved back to DeKalb County and enrolled Ross in an alternative school.

After a year, Ross dreaded re-enrolling in a traditional high school where any small infraction could find her back at the alternative school. “I was nervous because I never did well in a traditional high school and I wasn’t looking forward to returning to that environment,” said Ross, who had missed more than 100 days at her old high school.

A teacher at the alternative school told Ross about Gateway to College Academy. “I was interested because it was a second chance to continue my high school education and earn college credits at the same time,” Ross says. “It was a chance for me to do things differently and actually get an education.”

In August 2011, Ross enrolled in Gateway to College. She marveled at the small classes and professors who were passionate about teaching. The supportive staff and regular tutoring made a big difference, she says.

“I met a lot of caring people who pushed me to strive for the best. I made friends who were in the same position, who didn’t like regular high school, so I didn’t feel like I was different or less than anyone,” said Ross, who will major in pre-nursing at GPC. “I’ve grown and become more mature, more disciplined. I’ve developed better study habits and have much better attendance. I have grown tremendously since I first entered the program, and it would not have happened at a traditional high school.”