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 Milburn, 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 Curriculum, a holistic model comprised of five pillars.

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