College Plus: College, Mentoring, Success! Grant Received

Written on by Valerie Melroy

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For our fourth year in a row, College Plus received a grant from the Joseph Jocelino Gaskill Education Fund through The Philadelphia Foundation. The amount we received this year was $3,332.70. The fund was established in 2010 by Joseph and Almerinda Gaskill in honor of their late son who died prematurely as a result of an undiagnosed mental illness. This grant helps Voice and Vision’s College Plus Program to fund and support people who have mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders to go to College and live out their college/career dreams. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Gaskill for your ongoing generous donation!

Through this grant we supported three part-time students last year, which includes paying for support from College Plus peer mentors.  All three students are continuing, and two of the students are now eligible for financial aid.  The third student will continue under the grant until she graduates in December 2016.  Here is a testimony of her experience with College Plus:

“One of the things I love and appreciate most about College Plus is that they took a chance on me when no one else would. Before College and College Plus, I felt like I was dying inside with no hope of a better life. I wanted better for myself. In summer 2008, just as I had lost all hope that I’d get into College, my therapist showed me a College Plus Flyer. I was scared to make the phone call, so my therapist dialed the number. When they called me back after I sent my College Plus application in, I was excited and nervous at the same time, but I was determined and motivated for this experience, and fortunately I got accepted into the College Plus program. The College Plus groups are very helpful. You get to share your experience and the mental health challenges faced during the course of an incredible journey, as well as meeting some nice people too. I get good grades at College, made some decent friends, although I prefer to keep my circle small, and most of all I’ve been able to learn things I never thought I’d ever get to learn about academically over the past 7 years. Since the 4th grade, I was in a LD (learning disability) class and was never given middle school or high school level work and now I’m just three semesters and five courses away from graduating with an Associate’s degree from Bucks County Community College. All and all, I’d have to say that College plus has been a great experience.”

With this grant and money provided through a contract with the Bucks County Department of Mental Health and Developmental Programs, Voice and Vision has helped 132 people attend classes at Bucks County Community College since 2008.  An evaluation of the College Plus program focusing on students’ outcomes was conducted in April 2015. Former College Plus students were interviewed, which was just one aspect of the evaluation. Of the 105 eligible students in the College Plus evaluation, 54 completed a phone interview.  A few of the highlights from the evaluation are as follows:

  • 96% of the students would recommend College Plus to other people
  • 92% of the students who answered the question said College Plus helped them with their career and/or education goals
  • 83% reported their mental health has improved since participating in College Plus
  • All but one student who answered the question said College Plus had a positive impact on their quality of life

Most students start by taking one course, while participating in College Plus peer mentoring and support services.  In addition to the statistics listed above, there are numerous success stories from College Plus students, all having to overcome significant difficulties and battle the lies associated with stigma. (Please see our College Plus page on this website for Sharon’s story.)

We invite you to partner with us so we can help more people go to college in the upcoming semesters. For the first time this year, we’ve had to reduce the number of students each semester due to insufficient funds. Students who are accepted into the College Plus program receive tuition for one 3-credit course, books and peer support/mentoring (through groups and individual support) as well as assistance to obtain funding for subsequent semesters; all for $950 per student per semester.  Students in College Plus are welcome to attend the support groups at no cost through their entire college experience (40% remain in college after participating in College Plus).

Please help us invest in people by giving them a chance to go to college, follow dreams, and live a fulfilled life, and if you do, you’ll help create more success stories! Please visit the donate button on this website and/or call for more information. All gifts are tax deductible. Any help is greatly appreciated.


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