The American dream has evolved over the years.

At one point it wasn’t uncommon to graduate high school, get married, and find a lucrative job that allowed you to feed a family of four and purchase a home. In today’s climate a high school education alone may not afford you the same lifestyle as years past. That is why the phrase “education is the key to success” became so popular, because it is now part of the fabric that creates the American dream.

It’s also widely known, low-income students experience lower graduation rates. While 60 percent of the wealthiest students complete their studies and graduate college, only about 16 percent of low-income college students graduate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

One reason for low graduation rates has statistically been due to lack of support financially and academically. That is why Catholic Charities partnered with the Community College of Baltimore County to launch Elevate, formerly known as Stay the Course.

Elevate Program Manager Mark Saunders explained, “The goal of Elevate is to keep students enrolled in college until associate’s degree attainment, by assisting them with non-academic barriers including food insecurity, rent and housing, transportation, utility cutoffs, childcare needs, and behavioral health barriers that often derail students best intentions to complete an associate’s degree.”

Fall 2020 marks the second year of the program and it has definitely made a difference for students. One participant was so pleased with the services she received from Elevate Support Specialist Latasha Davis that the student wrote to the vice president of CCBC and one of the deans of the college to share her successes.

“…I got enrolled in a program on campus called Stay the Course, now known as Elevate. It has helped me with so much, including getting accepted into the Medicaid program and I started seeing a therapist, psychiatrist, and a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program specialist. I see a professional two to three times a week and am finally getting the consistent care I need. I can concentrate, I have little to no anxiety, and experience consistent levels of motivation and excitement towards my job, school, and personal life.”

The case management component is very hands-on. Every week, support specialists check on students’ well-being and assist them with personal goal-setting and achievement. The program has adjusted to restrictions in place due to COVID-19. The new virtual environment allows the team to offer services by phone, email, text and video chat.

Elevate is designed to work in tandem with Catholic Charities mission of serving the underserved to end generational poverty.

“Working as a team alongside Support Specialists Latasha Davis and Malcolm Pittman, we are helping people escape poverty and fulfill their personal goals,” said Saunders. “It is incredibly fulfilling to do so. I derive a great deal of personal satisfaction knowing that I am helping others fulfill their personal potential.”

Elevate welcomes students of all ages interested in earning an associate’s degree. Click here to complete an application or to learn more.