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New GED program opens at Central Branch YMCA

2/3/2010, 6:06 a.m.
Xavier Rhinehart, associate executive director of the Central Branch YMCA, conducts a tour of the new facility. Jeremy C. Fox

PTC is an educational partnership between Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) and Inquilinos Boriquas en Acción (IBA), a community-based organization that works to empower people through “education, economic development, technology and arts programming.”

PTC began in 2003, when IBA approached BHCC with a plan to bring higher education resources to the community at Villa Victoria. Initial funding came from a three-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to serve residents in the Villa Victoria, Tent City, Castle Square and Cathedral affordable housing communities of the South End.

After the grant period ended, BHCC and IBA committed to continuing the program, sharing the expenses equally. Funding for the PTC also comes from the Hyams Foundation, the Clowes Fund, Liberty Mutual and the John W. Alden Trust.

Initially, the program was only geared toward preparing and enrolling students for college, but the staff realized that they needed to support the many young people who were unable to go to college because they didn’t yet have high school diplomas.

In 2004 they added the GED Readiness Program, which has so far graduated about 45 students.

Pabon-Szebeda says that about 10 students from PTC have earned their associate’s degrees at BHCC and around 20 have gone on to other colleges and completed either their associate’s or bachelor’s degree. About 100 students from PTC are now enrolled at BHCC, while another 30 are enrolled at other colleges.

Around 70 percent of the students enrolled are women, and close to 95 percent  are people of color, Pabon-Szebeda said.

Pabon-Szebeda credits the program’s success to the one-on-one work that case managers do with students. “The cornerstone of the program,” she said, “is the case management piece.

“The case managers build [relationships] with the students in a way that the student feels comfortable saying, ‘I need housing,’ or, ‘This is going on at home; what can I do?’ Really reaching out to them so that they know they have someone they can talk to, and then the case managers find the resources that the student needs, whether it’s in-house at IBA or at Bunker Hill, or outside.”

Antonio Arrendel, the case manager who will oversee the new PTC location, said it was meaningful for him to be part of the program because he grew up in Dorchester and was exposed to the same environment as the students he works with.

 He earned his bachelor’s degree at Northeastern University, right next to the YMCA. “The irony of them being here and going through the same stuff is great,” he said, “and they’re all going to make it.”

Arrendel believes the most important thing is showing the young people that someone truly cares about them. “I have a saying,” he said, “‘Show me an adult who cares and I’ll show you a kid who cares.’ So that’s our approach to the whole thing.”

For more information, contact Elizabeth Pabon-Szebeda at 617-927-1724 or ptc@iba-etc.org.