FIRST PARIS, NOW COLLEGE: A Teach for America alum at work in Marianna.

  • FIRST PARIS, NOW COLLEGE: A Teach for America alum at work in Marianna.

I’ve written before about Gabriel Fotsing, a Harvard grad whose Teach for America stint in Marianna produced a trip to Paris for students to whom Memphis might have been an exotic destination. Last year, I wrote about Fotsing’s appeal for support of a startup nonprofit to provide low-income kids with the tools and mentoring to get into and complete college.


He sent a progress report recently to groups that supported this effort, The College Initiative, which has won its 501c3 status.

Sounds like it’s making progress in the Delta. Fotsing’s letter on last year’s work follows.


Gabriel Fotsing

  • Gabriel Fotsing

Hope this email finds you well. We wanted to take a moment and give you an account of what we were able to do last school year as well as what we hope to do this school year. We have also attached our 501(c)3 letter to this email.

Regarding our staff, we now have 2 people (myself and my COO) working full time. We now have 14 teachers who will be assisting us with programming this school year as well as one college student.

We directly served 20 seniors and 50 juniors this past school year. We indirectly served 200 freshmen and sophomores this school year. We are now working in 7 different schools across the Delta: Lee High School, Marvell High School, Lexa-Barton High School, Palestine-Wheatley High School, Hughes High School, Forrest City High School, and Clarendon High School.

We had 5 college visits this past school year. We visited Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University, Fisk University, Emory University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Georgia Institute of Technology, Tulane University, Loyola University, Xavier University, and University of Arkansas Fayetteville. The participation rate was 70% for the entire school year, and 90% for our summer program.

Regarding the ACT, 100% of TCI scholars took the ACT by the end of June. Scores ranged from 17 to 31. The median score was a 19.

The summer camp was incredible. We had 20 students from 4 different schools (Palestine-Wheatley, Forrest City, Lexa-Barton, and Lee). On top of ACT prep, college prep, and essay writing, our students learned how to code and took financial literacy classes. We visited Tulane, Xavier, Loyola, and UofA. In six weeks, they grew collectively by 5 points on the ACT, going from 17 to 22. The median score this summer was a 22 and the highest was a 28. Some students grew by as much as 12 points in one section of the exam. Furthermore, all students were able to complete the Horatio Alger Scholarship application, as well as their personal statements for college application. They all have picked at least six colleges (divided by safety, match, and stretch schools) where they will be applying this academic school year. Needless to say, we are very excited for the 2013-2014 academic school year!

Out of the 20 seniors we worked with last year, 19 or 95% will be enrolled in college for the 2013-14 school year, and one is headed to the army. Our 19 seniors were accepted to: Notre Dame, American, Uof A Fayetteville, SMU, Ohio State, ASU, UCA, UAPB, Le Moyne-Owen, Philander Smith, UALR, and Delta State. The 19 students were collectively offered $640180 in scholarships for an average of $33693.68 per student. The range of scholarships is $14,000 to $240,180. This year, the percentage of students receiving at least $1,000 in scholarships was 100%.

This academic year, given the funding, we would like to serve 80 seniors and 120 juniors directly. While continuing our programming at the current schools we serve, we would like to expand to the following schools: Stuttgart, Brinkley, Earle, Hughes, Helena West Helena, and Clarksdale. If we do this, then we will be able to reach 1500 students with both our direct and outreach programming. In order to achieve this, our operating budget for this academic year would be $480,000.

We are extremely proud of our students who will be matriculating to college in just a few days as well as those who will be starting their senior year of high school next week. This past year has cemented in my mind what I and my fellow colleagues here in the Delta have always known: that our kids CAN achieve at the highest academic levels possible, all they need are the resources and guidance to reach their full potential.

Thank you so much for all your support. It would have been impossible to do the work that we do here in the Delta without your help. We hope that you will keep supporting us and our students so that they can reach their full potential. I will be sending you some videos of our students and what they had to say about the program thus far. Again, many thanks.