Oakland, Calif. — Will Newsome was 8 years old when he decided he wanted to go to college. He was already witnessing the negative choices older kids were making in his impoverished neighborhood and he wanted a way out.
“Many were just hanging in the streets or were already in jail. I didn’t want that for my life,” he said recently from his dorm room at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. His journey from being an elementary school student in Richmond, Calif., to being a college senior has been taken by many of the 718 students who’ve participated in the university’s Early Admit Program (EAP) since its inception six years ago.
William Hynes, Holy Names’ president at the time, developed the program, which provides free tutoring, mentoring and other help to any low-income high school student who enrolls in it, ideally beginning in their freshman year. Currently, there are 65 high school students participating.
Each student who completes the program with at least a 2.7 GPA is guaranteed a spot at Holy Names and an annual $9,000 Holy Names scholarship. Other financial aid is also available. Both the ACT and SAT are waived as admission requirements.
Newsome and his mother heard about the program at a college fair during his sophomore year at Pinole Valley High School. They were impressed and Newsome signed on. His mentor checked in regularly to make sure he was meeting his academic goals.
After a visit to Holy Names’ hilltop campus when he was a high school junior, Newsome said he was “hooked” by the small classes, the sense of community, and a faculty who would “value me as a person. I didn’t want to just be a number on a big campus.”
The school currently has 1,191 students enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate programs with an average student-faculty ratio of 11:1. U.S. News &World Report has designated the campus as one of the most diverse in the nation.