Every fall, millions of American high school students apply to college. For some– those with educational and financial resources, as well as supportive families- it’s a nerve wracking time. But those students know that, in the end, they’ll most likely be off to a good school the next year.
Unfortunately, there are far too many excellent high school students who don’t have what they need to get into college. They attend schools with few resources or come from impoverished backgrounds. Their families are either unfamiliar with the college application process, or unsupportive, or stretched too thin to help.
In 2013, data released from the National Student Clearinghouse showed that students from high poverty schools (schools with 40 percent or more of the students on free, or reduced price, lunch) were significantly less likely to enroll in college, and stay for more than a year.
Yet, this year, about 20 million students are attending American colleges and universities. More than half of that population, 11.5 million, are women. Some of those women are there because of their own grit, determination, intelligence, and the nonprofit, The PowHERful Foundation.
The stated mission of the organization, which helps young women with outstanding potential attend college, is one I believe in wholeheartedly.
“The PowHERful Foundation gets young women to, and through, college. We provide financial assistance, mentorship, and wraparound services to help our scholars achieve their highest potentials.”
I’m honored to be on the board of PowHERful for so many reasons. First, the group doesn’t just write checks. They work with the girls to find the right college, apply, and stick with school for the entire four years. Many of the young women go on to graduate school. So, yes, there is strong financial support but there is also the mentorship and guidance needed to succeed at college.
This organization resonates with me not just because it’s vitally important to help every student in the U.S. achieve their potential, no matter their background, but because attending college is a life changing experience.
When I first went to Georgetown University, I thought I was going to go on to law school. But, I did an internship at the E.F. Hutton brokerage office and, instead of law, found myself in the world of investments.
That career path has afforded me the ability to do much, including help others access education, both here in the U.S. and abroad.
The PowHERful Foundation was founded in 2011, under the name the Soledad O’Brien and Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation, by journalist Soledad O’Brien and her husband, Brad Raymond. The concept was, and still is, that helping one young woman at a time will have a positive ripple effect. She, herself, will do better in life as will her family and, hopefully, her community of origin.
PowHERful has scholars from cities ranging from New Orleans to Brooklyn, Baltimore to San Francisco. Early participants in the program are television news anchors, running women’s shelters and, in one case, graduated from law school last year.
Which absolutely delights me. Because, while law school didn’t turn out to be my path, I’m happy to help an astonishing young woman find, and walk, that path I didn’t take.