Dorson Scholars Program

A tuition-free, four-year, college prep program that supports highly motivated, inner-city, high school students.

From College to Career

In November 2019, we launched the Dorson Scholars Program, a tuition-free, four year, college prep program, to offer more structured and impactful support to our students. Each year, a cohort of 20 Dorson Scholars engage in year-round programming beginning in the ninth grade.

The Opportunity Gap

The opportunity gap refers to the reality that race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status determine the opportunities that are granted to students.

Map of united states with 26 percent in the center

Nation-wide graduation gap between students in low income communities and those from more affluent areas.

Two Americas: 11 Miles Apart


Median household income in Millburn, NJ


Median household income in Newark, NJ

Map of Essex County New Jersey with high school graduation rate gap. 99 percent in Milburn High School. 50 percent in Barringer Arts High School.

New Jersey has one of the widest opportunity gaps in the country and nowhere is this more apparent than between the inner-cities and affluent suburbs of Essex County.

Our Model

Our cohort-based, four-year program is anchored in our Dorson Scholars Model, a holistic model comprised of three C's.

5 pillars side by side

A Scholar's Journey

Over their four years with the Dorson Scholars Program, students will develop a sense of personal, college and career awareness while possessing the tools and self-confidence to succeed in college and beyond.


College Readiness

  • Workshops covering: study habits, time-management, public speaking and more
  • Seminars discussing college admissions and financial aid
  • Exposure to the vast post-secondary options and alternatives to college
  • S AT prep, college advising and application support.

Our Scholars kick off their journey with our College Readiness Course. They engage in experiential workshops designed to hone their study habits, essay writing, and time management skills.

By 10th grade, Scholars are exploring the college admissions process through college tours, alumni panels, and workshops on the college financial aid process.

As 11th graders, Scholars delve into a variety of postsecondary options to ensure they find their best path. They begin standardized exam prep through our long-running SAT Prep Course.

In 12th grade, Scholars receive advising around the college admissions process and engage in life skills workshops designed to prepare them for life post-high school.

College Readiness

Career Development

  • Workshops covering: resume writing, networking, professional communications and more
  • Guest speakers from a wide variety of industries and careers
  • Chance to leverage networks into mentorship and internship opportunities

In our Career Development Course, Scholars develop professional competencies, including resume writing skills, networking skills, and more.

Scholars build their own professional networks with local professionals of color who guest speak at each class session and share their career insights.

Throughout the Program, our Scholars are able to leverage these networks into mentorship and internship opportunities.

Career Development

Group Advising

  • Support of the whole person, not just the student
  • Opportunities for deep, meaningful self-reflection
  • Discussions around stress management, self-care, self-advocacy, and more

Scholars engage in group advising sessions to foster community and provide individualized support.

Our volunteer advisors spend time getting to know our Scholars as individuals and cover personal development topics like mindfulness and stress management.

Group Advising


STEM Enrichment

  • Hands-on project-based workshops
  • Exposure to the STEM academic and career pipeline
  • Opportunities to develop problem solving, critical thinking, and project management skills
  • Exposure to STEM professionals of color

To prepare Scholars for the jobs of tomorrow, each season our Scholars participate in additional STEM Enrichment workshops.

Utilizing a project-based learning approach, our Scholars work on hands-on projects designed to increase exposure to the STEM academic and career pipeline.

STEM Enrichment

Community Service

  • Participation in Feed the Homeless & Toys for Tots Initiatives every fall and winter
  • Chance to plan, coordinate, and execute a spring community give-back initiative
  • Nurture the development of future agents of change in their communities

As our Scholars grow into self-actualized individuals, they evolve into active leaders of change in their communities through our seasonal community service projects.

Every fall and winter, Scholars participate in our Feed the Homeless Initiative and lead our Toys for Tots Drive

In the spring, our Scholars identify issues in their local community they wish to tackle and plan, coordinate, and execute their own community give-back initiative.

Community Service


College Immersion

  • All-expenses-paid scholarships to precollege summer programs
  • Partnership with the Cornell University Summer College Program and the DuBois Scholars Institute at Princeton University
  • Spend 3-4 weeks at an Ivy League university
  • Take college-level courses for credit and experience life on a college campus

Our partnership with the Cornell University Summer College Program and the DuBois Scholars Institute at Princeton University allows Scholars to spend three weeks at an Ivy League university

Scholars take college-level courses for credit and experience life on a college campus.

College Immersion

Travel Abroad

  • All-expenses-paid scholarships to travel abroad
  • Spend one month in countries like Albania, China, Italy, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, and Uruguay
  • Increase cross-cultural competencies and build self-confidence and independence

Our partnership with the Student Diplomacy Corps enables Scholars to spend one month abroad in countries like Albania, China, Italy, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, and Uruguay.

Scholars increase their cross-cultural competencies and build self-confidence and independence.

Travel Abroad


  • Chance to earn a full-time paid internship with Tenna, an Internet of Things (IoT) tech company in Edison, NJ
  • Deepen understanding of STEM careers and gain professional work experience

Through our partnership with Tenna, an Internet of Things (IoT) tech company based in Edison, NJ, Scholars can apply for a full-time paid internship.

Working with Tenna, Scholars are able to deepen their understanding of STEM careers while gaining professional work experience.


Meet Our Scholars

Titus N.

Aspiring Mechanical Engineer

Jazzera F.

Aspiring Novelist

Jonathan O.

Aspiring Computer Engineer

Kiran S.

Aspiring Journalist

Tracy D.

Aspiring Event Planner

Oba F.

 Aspiring Entrepreneur


How You Can Help

If you’d like to volunteer for the Dorson Scholar’s Program, we’re looking for volunteer professionals with curriculum-building expertise, a willingness to lead workshops, or those interested in mentoring a student or providing internship opportunities.

Adult Male Mentor pointing at something on a Dorson Scholar’s computer screen

Apply to the Dorson Scholars Program

Applications are currently closed due to COVID-19. Be the first to hear when they reopen.

Dorson Community Foundation

280 South Harrison Street, Suite 300

East Orange, New Jersey 07018

P (973) 280-9565


Join us in celebrating 30 years of impact!






Sonia Scott

Founder & Vice President

Sonia Y. Scott is a teacher, author and well-known personality in the health and wellness industry. A native of Jamaica, Mrs. Scott is a first-generation college graduate having received her Bachelors from Herbert H. Lehman College.

Mrs. Scott founded Dorson Home Care, Inc., a licensed and accredited home health care agency headquartered in West Orange, NJ. She is also the founder of Dorson Vocational Training Institute.

Mrs. Scott founded Dorson Community Foundation with a mission dedicated to providing inner-city youth in Essex with a meaningful alternative lifestyle to one involving drugs and gangs.

She is a member of several organizations including the Caribbean Medical Mission, the Association for Female Executives, New Jersey Association of Business Owners (NJABO), and the Essex County Coalition for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (ECCPVA). She is also a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP). Mrs. Scott is a person who pushes boundaries by skillfully weaving her compelling life story into helping others build a life story.

Natasha Scott-Reichel


Natasha Scott is a 2016 graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University with a Master of Arts degree in Higher and Postsecondary Education. She is a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Natasha is an alum of Dorson Community Foundation, having participated in several programs as a child and adolescent. Wanting to impart her hands‐on “how‐to‐get‐into‐college” knowledge to others, Natasha has worked for years with Dorson Community Foundation students providing college prep mentorship to students tackling the college admissions process. Natasha's work at Dorson Community Foundation is what influenced her to write and publish The College Admissions Bible in 2013. The guidebook has been purchased by Paterson Public School District, East Orange School District, and Orange High School. Natasha has since built her career in the college access/college success space.

Prior to being named Executive Director, Natasha served as an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Career Development at Columbia University's Center for Career Education.

​Natasha is also a former Program Associate for the Northeast Region of A Better Chance, a national nonprofit organization recruiting and placing high-achieving children of color into independent day and boarding schools around the country.

Leslie Daley

Board Member

Leslie G. Daley, CPA is the founding principal of LESLIE G DALEY, LLC an accounting and tax firm located in Maplewood, New Jersey. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Rutgers University, New Jersey in 1986. He is a licensed Certified Public Accountant and a member of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants.

He has specialized and extensive knowledge and experience in the areas of accounting and taxation for Individuals, Corporations and Partnerships specifically in the health care and home care industries. Leslie also provides financial planning services for Individuals and accounting and financial services for non-profit organizations.

Kellion Knibb


Born and raised in Jamaica to a single mom, Kellion learned the value of education at an early age. Consequently, Kellion used her athletic talents in track and field as a discus thrower to pave the way to higher education.

She moved to the US in 2012 to pursue a college education and an athletic career at the Florida State University. While at FSU, Kellion became one of the best discus throwers in the ACC. She claimed 5 ACC titles, 2 regional titles and became a 3-time all-American. Kellion competed at the 2017 World Championship, the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Kellion has a BA in English and MA in Communication & Digital Media Studies and is now a Marketing professional with experience in content writing, social media, email marketing and website management. She helps small companies build their online and social media presence.​

Kellion hopes to share her experience and expertise in online marketing communications with Dorson Community Foundation as a Board Member for years to come.

Liz Goldberg

Board Member

Liz has had a 20 year career operating her own business as an art consultant working with architects and designers to provide large and small scale and art installations to restaurants, hotels and resorts worldwide.  In 2009, she and her family moved to Melbourne, Australia when her husband went to work for Melbourne based travel company, Lonely Planet.

Consequently, Liz has traveled extensively globally learning about different cultures and viewpoints from around the world.  Today, Liz consults with start ups to help with the business launch.  Liz and her husband Matt are involved with many educational organizations including Cornell University, The University of Melbourne and the Lumina Foundation and are passionate about thinking about how to level the playing field to create opportunities for kids from at-risk populations.​

Liz currently lives in New Jersey with her husband Matt and three kids Aidan, Jesse and Olivia.

Michelle Butler

Board Member

Michelle A. Butler is a Project Manager for one of the top Engineering Consulting firms- Burns & McDonnell. Michelle started her career with the electric utility industry 13 years ago. She has worked with several major electric utilities including Florida Power and Light (“FPL”), Eversource Energy, and most recently Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) in New Jersey.

Michelle was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic and raised in Miami, Florida. She earned a Bachelor of Science (“BS”) degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Florida in 2005 and an MBA from the University of Central Florida in 2011. As a Project Manager with Burns & McDonnell, Michelle has led and/or assisted in managing substation, transmission, or distribution projects.

She brings 13 years of experience managing large scale transmission/distribution projects valued at more than $450 million, maintaining costs within 10 percent of the planned budget. Michelle specializes in system resiliency, conducting financial and resource-based cost-benefit analysis, and leading utility capital projects. She is experienced in working with public agencies and the community to keep projects on track.

Michelle worked at Eversource Energy for three years as the Manager of Connecticut’s System Resiliency group. Within this role, she coordinated Eversource's $300 million, multi-year effort to develop and implement storm resiliency plans to minimize the effects of major storms on the Distribution system, ultimately improving customer reliability.

Laurel Bernstein

Board Member

Laurel Bernstein is the Founder and President of Laurel Bernstein & Associates, a New Jersey based consulting and training firm focused on enhancing the performance and leadership skills for small business owners.

​Laurel has a track record as a highly effective facilitator and trainer, working with business owners to develop key initiatives that leverage talent and help businesses grow.  In this capacity for both retention and attraction strategies, she serves as an executive coach.

Ms. Bernstein advises companies, helping owners evaluate business models, plan vibrant strategic initiatives and design team development.  She has an impressive track record of improving organizational effectiveness and individual achievements. She helps business owners evolve the way they lead to keep up with the needs of the changing environment and economics.

Ms. Bernstein holds a B.A. in Science Education from Montclair State University and a Certificate in Professional Coaching from Baruch CUNY Zicklin Business School iCoach New York.


Roksanna Craig

Board Member

Iris Wells

Board Member

Iris Wells is an education advocate who holds a B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Education, and one year of Masters Level in Instructional Design and Technology with a concentration on Training & Performance Improvement.​

Iris Wells brings twenty plus years of educational diversity having worked with preschool through college levels in both the private and public sectors - contributing to traditional and non-traditional environments. Ms. Wells has worked directly with the New York City Board of Education within the Students in Temporary Housing Unit in District Two.

​Iris has been served in other roles such as Director, Counselor, Facilitator, Trainer, Consultant, Advisor and Manager that have led her in the public school system, charter school system, and non-profit agencies, where she worked with general education, first time offenders, high risk and gang-involved youth.​

She is the Author of It Got Me Through – Daily, I Give Thanks! And, encompassing all that she believes and represents, she is the founder of the QnIrie Foundation which brings everything together through philanthropy, events, volunteerism, fundraisers and more.​

Claiming endless possibilities and knowing that through God, All things are possible; Ms. Wells says “there's no telling what's coming next! It's about decreasing me, increasing God and being used to make a difference in the lives of others."