DCC introduces program to help homeless students go to college

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dawson Promise

Representatives from Dawson Community College met with community members to formally introduce the Dawson Promise program to the public. The program was originally announced in October of this year.

Dawson Promise is an initiative started by DCC personnel which will provide aid to unaccompanied youth, be they homeless or aging out of the foster care system. The program works by providing scholarships and other forms of aid to bring these unaccompanied youth to DCC where they can enroll as students, but also receive aid through the services the college provides.

The program aims to provide each prospective student with year-round living accommodations by allowing them to live in the residence halls so long as they remain enrolled. O’Leary added that, ideally, students who enroll to DCC through the Dawson Promise program would move into the residence halls during the summer prior to their first semester of classes, to help them adjust to life on campus.

In addition to living accommodations the students would work between 10 and 15 hours of work every week and receive mentoring, financial aid, support from a community family and the opportunity to learn valuable skills to help them succeed on their own.

According to DCC President Scott Mickelsen, one of the DCC employees who helped start the project, this program is possible because DCC has been seeing a lot of growth recently and as a result has added programs to help young people gain skills that they could use to be successful. He explained that DCC over the last two years has seen increases in enrollment, allowing them to expand or create several programs that can provide valuable job skills.

“We’re not thinking outside the box, we’re thinking in a different box,” Mickelsen said.

Introduced to the public members in attendance was Rich Rowe, a member of the DCC board of trustees who Mickelsen said was responsible for inspiring the program.

Rowe, who has been a foster parent in the past, got the idea for the project when he read the story of a young woman who was graduating high school, but didn’t really have anywhere to go after graduation.

Rowe had the idea of giving her a scholarship to DCC and this idea grew to include other unaccompanied youth and became the Dawson Promise project.

Kathleen O’Leary, Special Liaison to the President at DCC, said DCC will be working with multiple other agencies across the state to achieve the goal of helping as many youth as possible. Some of the agencies that DCC will work with include school counselors and child advocacy groups to help identify youth that would be eligible for scholarships through the program so they could easily transition to DCC when the time to do so came up.

“It’s important to us that there’s a ‘soft hand-off’ from these agencies in that they come to us, we’re not going to be out heavily recruiting except letting people know in a general way that we have these services,” O’Leary said.

Also at the meeting was a representative from Action for Eastern Montana, Jen Hawkinson, who explained that Action also has programs aimed at helping the same youth in a similar way. She said that, like Dawson Promise, Action has a program aiming to help youth in need find employment. O’Leary and Hawkinson briefly discussed how a partnership between the two programs could be beneficial for both before returning to the presentation.

O’Leary also noted how DCC has a history of helping students connect with the community through other services such as their “Adopt a Buc” program.

DCC Vice President of Advancement and Human Resources Leslie Weldon said that Dawson Promised will be part of the information the college will present to the Montana Legislature to help raise awareness about the college and the services it provides.

Weldon also explained that the college will be looking for grant funding and other revenue sources to help maintain the program.

Contact Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.