Dorson Scholars Program
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Aspiring Mechanical Engineer
Aspiring Computer Engineer
Aspiring Event Planner
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.
Apply to the Dorson Scholars Program
Applications are currently closed due to COVID-19. Be the first to hear when they reopen.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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."