On Point for College Relocates with Students’ Needs in Mind

Students are taught to believe that knowledge and a hearty work ethic are the keys to obtaining a college education. However, many students possess these capabilities and yet still find themselves excluded from opportunity. The impact that a healthy support system has on an individual’s quest for higher education is often overlooked by those who are fortunate enough to have one. But for those who don’t, a pang of disadvantage is felt with every college tour missed for lack of transportation or every question left unanswered about available scholarships and financial aid options.

Since 1999, On Point for College (OPFC) has made higher education more accessible for low-income and non-traditional students by offering support programs that help them overcome barriers to the training, college education and careers that build successful lives.  By taking students on college tours, helping them fill out their applications, providing rides to and from school and helping them find internships that provide workplace experience, On Point is the robust support system that many students always needed but never had.

The OPFC team knew there could be one less obstacle in the way of their goals if its office headquarters was more accessible for students.  After an extensive search, OPFC settled comfortably this year into its new Syracuse home on West Onondaga Street.

Nearly eighty percent of the students served by the Syracuse division of OPFC are city residents who live in neighborhoods with some of the highest rates of concentrated poverty. For many, OPFC is their provider of transportation to and from college.  Sam Rowser, OPFC executive director, recognized that the burden of transportation could also limit student access to the OPFC headquarters. Therefore, it was vital for the relocation to directly address this need.

“A central downtown location was essential,” explained Rowser. “Being closer to the bus hub is a tremendous help for those students who don’t have cars.”

Not only is the new location more convenient for students, but it is for staff as well.  In the past, OPFC shared office space with Catholic Charities. While the two organizations maintained a supportive relationship, both desired opportunity for growth.  Since On Point was established, it has helped more than 8,700 students enroll in college and the numbers keep growing. Rowser and his colleagues are grateful for the possibility of extending program hours into the evenings and the weekends now that they have their own space.

“Everyone here is working harder and smarter, loving the new atmosphere,” said Rowser. “I’m even here Saturdays and Sundays!”

Summer can be a busy time for those involved with OPFC. Many students who walk through its doors are first-generation college students who rely on staff members to be their guide through the admissions process and filing for financial aid.  The new headquarters is often bustling with students coming in for pre-college orientation sessions, which are attended by 400 students each year. During sessions, students learn time management techniques, effective study skills, and tips for positive roommate relations.  Additionally, OPFC provides attendees with school supplies, toiletries and a small stipend for new school clothes.  When assistance is in such high demand, students and staff alike appreciate the positive atmosphere of the new work space.

Furnishings provided through the support of a Community Foundation grant is one aspect contributing to the office’s sense of positivity. Prior to the relocation, OPFC was operating with seventeen-year-old furniture.  Just the thought of potential moving costs for the well-worn pieces was daunting for the organization operating on a tight budget.

“Having funding from the Community Foundation for furniture took a tremendous weight off our shoulders,” said Rowser.

The Community Foundation has fostered OPFC’s growth over the years, awarding more than $250,000 in grants dating back to its inception. While grants of the past and present have had a variety of goals, all have helped ensure that students can achieve their full potential and are given the tools to overcome the hardships placed in their way.

The relocation is not the endpoint in Rowser’s vision for the organization’s growth, but rather the beginning.

“We are a growing program,” said Rowser. “Having the potential to expand in the same location was a priority for us.”

As the facility expands, so can the services offered. OPFC looks forward to offering professional training workshops and entrepreneurial programs in the future. The path to success for many students will now begin behind the doors of 488 W. Onondaga Street.

 

To view photos of the new facility please visit here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cnycf/albums/721576979176217555

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