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Gateway to College provides path to diploma, college for Malik Lewis
Photos and Story by James Hill
Malik Lewis admitted he was on the verge of dropping out of high school last year.
He had bounced around between Rosemary Anderson High School east and north campuses, trying to complete the required credits to get his diploma, when he stopped and wondered where he was ultimately going. Then, unexpectedly, he found his gateway to high school completion and to something even better – college.
While filling out enrollment papers for Rosemary Anderson North, the Southeast Portland resident called a Links Program specialist to explore his options. The call changed his life.
“I called Stedman Bailey and she was like, ‘No, just come to PCC and to the info session and we’ll see what we can do,’” he said. “I didn’t even know about PCC or that they offered anything like this. It was pretty eye opening to find out I could actually get a diploma and college credits at the same time.”
Lewis went from a summer job sweeping up at a local fabrication shop to getting on track to his high school diploma. Through Gateway, he enrolled in math, reading, writing and college success classes at Sylvania and Southeast campuses.
“They were basic classes that prepared us for that college experience,” said Lewis, who is focusing his college studies on political science and engineering. “They are classes that everyone needs and should take when they start at PCC.”
Gateway to College, which serves approximately 400 students annually, allows students between ages 16 to 20 to work toward earning their high school diploma while collecting college credit. Gateway to College contracts with Portland Public, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego and Tigard-Tualatin school districts to offer them a scholarship that covers the cost of tuition and books. Once in the program students hook up with a college success coach to teach them about college, organization and time management; and connect students with community, career, and college resources.
Gateway started as a pilot project launched by the college in the late 1990’s and is now a national program, involving more than 42 community colleges around the country and serving more than 18,000 students via 45 programs and 250 school districts since inception.
Bailey said Lewis was a great fit for Gateway to College because he was ready for his high school diploma do-over. The intake process of the program, “puts students through their paces.” She said that prospective students need to write several essays, complete a few days of placement testing and do an interview with staff.
“The entirety of the process goes into whether or not we can offer a student a spot, as well as what level we can start the student at,” Bailey said. “Malik did very well navigating the process and demonstrating to us that he was ready and really wanted to be here. I’m so happy he is thriving at PCC.”
In the end, Lewis made it through Gateway even though his family is in Texas and he lives with his girlfriend’s family, who have provided him the biggest support. Based at the Southeast Campus, he’ll start at PCC taking communications, political science and math classes in the fall having already earned 36 credits toward the 90 credits he needs to transfer to Portland State University. But he still likes to reflect back to June when he gave the Gateway to College keynote address during the Links Program graduation.“I can’t put it to words yet,” Lewis said. “It was great to have the feeling of everything being lifted off of you. The way I felt when I graduated, being up on stage in the whole ceremony, it felt amazing.”
How did Malik Lewis get through the program and be the success he is? Lewis points to his friend Demetrius who dropped out of the Gateway to College Program in the first term.
“He was most inspirational because I had seen him trying so hard during the first term and we did everything we could to keep each other on track,” Lewis said. “That was my guy. He was supposed to be here and graduate with me. As soon as I saw him not in class, I stepped up my game.”