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Helping Dropouts Break the Cycle of Poverty

C.C. Cretarolo, 17, is enrolled in the Gateway to College program in Portland. She hopes to get her high-school diploma within two years.
Neva Grant, NPR
C.C. Cretarolo, 17, is enrolled in the Gateway to College program in Portland. She hopes to get her high-school diploma within two years.
Linda Huddle heads the Gateway to College program at Portland Community College.
Neva Grant, NPR /
Linda Huddle heads the Gateway to College program at Portland Community College.

If you come from a poor family, you are more likely to drop out of high school. And if you drop out and stay out of high school, you are more likely to be poor. In Portland, Ore., one program is designed to break this cycle by helping dropouts finish their education.

The program, called Gateway to College, is taught at Portland Community College. The idea is that students who enroll will get a taste -- even a thirst -- for college by taking classes on a college campus.

Some of the teens in the class are helping to support their families at home. They may become the first in their families to go to college. And many also have this in common: They hated high school.

The Gateway program screens for students who have the skills and motivation to try their hand at school again. It also offers things that most high schools can't: Small classes and a lot of counseling. Tuition is free. And it allows students to earn high school and college credit for every class they take.

There are many programs like Gateway to College across the country. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is spending millions of dollars to launch more like the one in Portland. It's too early to know how many students graduate nationally. But in Portland, the program demands a lot of students who already have demanding lives; 40 percent of them drop out. Many do come back for their high-school diplomas, a big accomplishment considering where they started. But the title of this program is Gateway to College -- and so far, few students have gone on to earn that next degree.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Neva Grant