Outward Bound

Members of the College Bound pilot class have overcome obstacles and are preparing to graduate

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

College seemed an unattainable goal to Don Webster '96, like many of his classmates, when he entered West Roxbury High School eight years ago. Many of his classmates lacked the academic preparation or financial resources to consider higher education, especially at a major university.

On Commencement Day, however, Webster will fulfill his dream of earning a college degree and begin pursuing his next objective, a career in law enforcement. He also will become one of the first eight alumni of College Bound, an academic enrichment and support program for educationally and economically disadvantaged Boston high school students.

Webster's pilot class, formed in 1988, received the tutoring and mentoring necessary to gain acceptance to, and succeed in, quality four-year colleges. Organizers say the pilot and subsequent classes not only had a positive impact on the lives of those enrolled, but also helped raise the educational expectations of other students in their high schools.

"I've seen this group blossom from children to young men and women who have grown into the people I'd hoped they'd be," said Prof. George Ladd (SOE), director of the program. "I have no doubts that they will all succeed in their professional endeavors."

"The youngsters involved in the program certainly showed tremendous growth and demonstrated a greater understanding of what it means to be successful in a college setting," said West Roxbury High School Headmaster Donald Pellegrini. "Their presence in the schools positively affected all students with whom they came in contact."

Alfredo Garcia, Don Webster and Zachery Breen (from left) are among the eight College Bound students graduating this year. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

College Bound, sponsored by Boston College and the Boston Public Schools in partnership with local businesses, selects participants at the end of eighth grade based on academic record, leadership abilities and potential for personal growth and success in college. They must maintain at least a "B" average throughout high school and attend biweekly Saturday classes at Boston College to develop their skills in English, reading, writing, mathematics and science. They strengthen their studying abilities and develop career goals with help from instructors and mentors, including Boston College faculty and undergraduates.

The eight 1996 graduates, who received full tuition scholarships, represent almost half of the original 17 students in the pilot class, with most of those remaining still completing their undergraduate studies at Boston College or other institutions. While college life often presented unexpected demands and challenges, graduates said they found resources at the University - such as Options Through Education, the Academic Development Center or Ladd himself - to assist them in handling problems.

Webster, a Barbados native whose family moved to Dorchester in 1983, said his College Bound assignments in reading, public speaking, writing and computers were essential to his transition to Boston College. The extra preparation enabled him to foster skills he would not have developed in his high school honors classes, he said.

"I might never have applied to Boston College because of financial reasons," Webster said. "I'm glad I had the chance to come here."

Kuan Lee '96 admitted his adjustment to Boston College was difficult at first. He had graduated from West Roxbury second in his class, and thought his College Bound experience had given him a preview of college life. But he found many of his fellow freshmen had come from highly competitive schools and were better prepared for college.

"I breezed through high school, but it was too easy," Lee said. "When I couldn't handle the workload at BC, I lost my confidence for a while, but College Bound and Dr. Ladd were always there for me, even if I sometimes was reluctant to let them help."

Another College Bound class is in the middle of its undergraduate studies, while a third is completing its sophomore year of high school. The students are no longer directed solely to Boston College, but are encouraged to find the institution which best suits their needs. Students in the second College Bound class are attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wellesley College, and Georgetown, Tufts and Syracuse universities, among other schools.

"Our College Bound students are more likely to be recruited and find their way into prestigious schools, which really speaks for the success of the program," Pellegrini said.

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