Choose a Gift That Changes Lives

November 21, 2020

“OneGoal supports 12,500 students, and 99 percent of them graduate from high school and 86 percent go on to college. Because first-generation college students sometimes flounder in their first year and leave without a degree, OneGoal supports them through that critical first year.

Melissa Connelly, 37, the organization’s chief executive, exemplifies the challenges some students face and how much difference a helping hand can make. One of six children in a dysfunctional home with a mom struggling with addiction, Melissa routinely skipped school and often ran away from home or was kicked out; she spent much of high school homeless.

As a Black girl earning D’s in school, she was pegged as hopeless and put in a truancy class — a babysitting program for problem kids until they dropped out. “I was that kid who was written off as a lost cause,” she remembers.

But Melissa’s white boyfriend was in Advanced Placement classes, and she protested the difference in education they were getting in the same school. She also had a superb social worker who guided her, and Melissa was able to talk her way into A.P. classes — and from then on earned straight A’s.

It took five years of attending four colleges, juggling tuition bills the whole way, to earn a B.A. She then earned two graduate degrees.”

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