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Bottom Line helps students get in, graduate, go far

Posted by Chad O'Connor  February 25, 2014 06:00 AM

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Bottom Line, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged students get into college, graduate, and go far in life, is making great strides. The organization has gone from serving 25 students in 1997 to serving 2400 students and is now at a size to make a real impact. Bottom Line provides low-income and first-generation students with one-on-one guidance from the application process through college graduation.

From day one, the mission has been about making sure the students’ college debt is reasonable in addition to helping kids get into college and graduate according to Bottom Line's Associate Director, Mike Wasserman. Prior to the program, many urban students were dropping out of college with debt and no degree. The most recent class of college students had an 87% graduation rate within six years.

To be eligible to participate in the program, students have to be part of a low-income family, and be in the first generation of their family to obtain a college degree. Bottom Line's staff counselors are full-time employees with at least a Bachelor's degree. Many have a background in teaching, student affairs, and mentoring.

Bottom Line students receive support in numerous ways to help them succeed. Students are paired with experts to help them with academic performance, financial aid, life challenges, and career development, and have the opportunity to participate in coaching/mentoring and networking events such as events Blue Cross Blue Shield and State Street are hosting focused on female students and young men of color. At those events, students will be paired with sr. level leaders to discuss topics such as building a network, finding a mentor, brand management, and making a strong impression on the job.

Bottom Line looks to the corporate community for help particularly around career development and has many corporate partners that hire the students as interns and in permanent jobs after graduation.

Caroline Woodward, partner at Boston law firm Sherin and Lodgen and member of the Bottom Line Leadership Committee, said "I've been very impressed with the Bottom Line students and graduates that I've met. In fact, Sherin and Lodgen’s marketing intern last summer was a Bottom Line student. These are impressive kids, driven to succeeding in life!"

Richard Pierre, a Bottom Line alumni member and now Financial Specialist at The Boston Consulting Group, participated in Bottom Line's Access Program where full-time college counselors help high school seniors navigate the complex and intimidating college application process. Pierre also participated in the Success Program where students continue to receive personalized guidance for up to 6 years or until they earn their degrees.

"Bottom Line counselors are very supportive and really care about what you want to do with your life. The key thing for me was they found me an internship job every summer at Sun Life Financial, and that work experience really helped me get a job after college. The care packages I received during the program were an added bonus and still stand out in my mind." According to Pierre, he was so pleased with the support he received from Bottom Line that he remained involved in the organization and now volunteers.

Kevin Connolly, Bottom Line Massachusetts Board Chair and Relationship Executive at State Street, got involved in Bottom Line after attending an informational event at a friend's house. The impact and the effectiveness of the organization impressed Connolly, and then a young woman who had graduated from college with Bottom Line's support spoke about her experience going from living in poverty to graduating college and starting her career at State Street. That deepened the immediate connection he felt to Bottom Line.

"I thought about the resources that my son and our friends' children had that this young woman completely lacked – and here she was succeeding at the company where I've grown my own career. I knew I wanted to be a part of this organization and play a role in the success they were achieving."

"Bottom Line really has an effective program. More than 80% of the students receiving Bottom Line's support in college will earn a degree, and that is on par with the wealthiest and most resourced suburban communities in Massachusetts. I see Bottom Line eliminating achievement gaps that have long-term impacts on urban communities, and I also see the organization helping provide the highly qualified, diverse workforce that we need in Boston," said Connolly.

Bottom Line currently has its 9th Annual Get In, Graduate, and Go Far Dinner scheduled for April 8 where it hopes to not only grow revenue but also build relationships to help the organization grow. According to Jennifer Scherck, Director of Development at Bottom Line, nearly 1000 corporate and community leaders attend the dinner, and the goal is to raise $1,000,000 this year, which makes up about one third of Bottom Line's operating budget. The organization is seeking corporate sponsors and auction item donations for the dinner. Info on above as well as info on making a financial or in-kind donation or becoming a volunteer can be found at www.bottomline.org.

Ellen Keiley appears weekly on RadioBDC's Global Business Hub segment and is a freelance writer. She can be contacted at ellenmkeiley@gmail.com; connect on Twitter @ellenmkeiley.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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