Our Model

At Dorson, we support highly-motivated high school students with great potential, but unequal opportunities due to systemic inequities. We work to identify, recruit and develop these students into the future leaders our increasingly multicultural society demands.

Our cohort-based, four-year program is anchored in our Dorson Scholars Curriculum, a holistic model comprised of five core pillars, all of which are designed to develop our students into self-actualized individuals and agents of change in their communities with maximized postsecondary and career success.

Pillar 1 - Self-Actualization

Driven by the five core competencies that make up Social and Emotional Learning (self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness), our goal for our Scholars is to trigger deep, meaningful self-reflection, strengthen self-advocacy skills, and create a sense of purpose for the future.

Personal development and self-exploration exercises and wellness workshops are woven throughout our curriculum, covering topics like mindfulness, the power of gratitude, stress management, and goal setting.

In addition, Scholars engage in small group advising sessions every other week. Our volunteer advisors are dedicated to getting to know each Scholar as a whole person, not just in terms of their academics.

Through these relationships, our Scholars learn how to navigate the steps toward their postsecondary goals, discuss their intersectional identities, reflect on and manage their challenges, and celebrate their successes.

Pillar 1: Self-Actualization

Pillar 2 - Post-secondary Exposure, Readiness, and Access

Pillar 2: Post-secondary Exposure, Readiness, and Access

Unfortunately, many students, particularly first-gen and low-income students, lack knowledge about their postsecondary options. As a result, many graduate high school without being fully prepared for their next steps.

Our goal is for our Scholars to gain exposure to the array of postsecondary options available to them, develop the academic skills needed to prepare for a postsecondary education, and secure the knowledge needed to matriculate and thrive at a ‬"best fit"‬ postsecondary option.

Through our College Readiness Course, our Scholars engage in a comprehensive series of experiential activities‭ ‬and‭ workshops covering topics like study habits and notetaking, essay writing, time management, teamwork and collaboration, and public speaking.

With how fast our workforce is changing thanks to automation and advanced technology, it is also important for our Scholars to be exposed to postsecondary alternatives to a traditional four-year college education. In addition, we create access for college-bound Scholars through college tours and guidance around researching and building their college lists, writing and editing compelling admissions essays, and tackling the financial aid and scholarship search process.

As juniors in high school, Scholars also begin standardized testing preparation through our SAT Prep Course.

Pillar 3 - Career Awareness and Professional Development

A college degree doesn’t imply workplace readiness and the jobs of tomorrow will look totally different than those of today. Innovation, globalization, and automation are reshaping the American workplace and jobs will increasingly demand technological, social-emotional, and higher-level thinking skills. Our goal is to prepare our Scholars for the workplace of tomorrow and create access to the resources, knowledge, and social capital they need to make informed decisions about their career goals.

Through our Career Development Course, our Scholars engage in interactive workshops designed to develop competencies critical to professional success, including resume writing, interviewing skills, ‬professional written communications, and networking. To build their career awareness and explore their varied interests, each session our Scholars meet with local professionals from a variety of industries who speak about their educational and career journeys and share real-world career insights. Scholars are ultimately able to begin building their own professional networks and leveraging social ‬capital to achieve their‭ postsecondary ‬and ‬career goals‭.

Through our quarterly STEM Scholars Enrichment, Scholars prepare for the jobs of tomorrow and develop their problem solving and strategic decision-making skills. Utilizing a project-based learning approach, our Scholars participate in hands-on projects designed to increase exposure to the STEM academic and career pipeline while sharpening their critical thinking skills and teaching them project management skills.

Pillar 3: Career Awareness and Professional Development

Pillar 4 - Service-Learning and Community Engagement

Pillar 4: Service-Learning and Community Engagement

Service-learning is “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities” (National Service Learning Clearinghouse).

Our goal is to immerse our Scholars in service-learning experiences that are deeply rooted in their own hometowns in order to produce active leaders of change in their schools and in their local communities. We strive to create a sense of civic responsibility and, by investing in their future, our Scholars can become the necessary leaders to implement changes in our society.

Through seasonal community service projects, including our fall Feed the Homeless Initiative and winter Toys for Tots Drive, that are completely student-run, our Scholars gain leadership skills while learning the importance of giving back. In the spring, our Scholars, under the leadership of nonprofit professionals, work together to identify issues in their local community they wish to tackle and plan, coordinate, and execute their own community give-back initiative.

Pillar 5 - Transformative Summer Experiences

Research suggests that low-income students are challenged with the “summer slide,” or academic regression experienced over the summer due to lack of meaningful summer engagements. Unfortunately, students from underserved communities often do not participate in enriching, constructive summer activities, and too often return to school even further behind than their more privileged peers.

Our goal is to provide our Scholars with enriching summer experiences to push them beyond their comfort zones, build confidence and resilience to move forward in the face of uncertainty and challenges, and broaden their view of the world and, most importantly, themselves.

Throughout the four-year program, Dorson Scholars receive the opportunity to apply for our all-expenses paid Summer Enrichment Scholarships. Scholars can choose to apply for a college immersion experience, through our partnerships with programs like the Cornell University Summer College Program and the DuBois Scholars Institute at Princeton University. Additionally, Scholars can apply for a travel abroad experience, through our partnership with the Student Diplomacy Corps.

Each program is designed to further strengthen their postsecondary readiness and personal development, as well as increase their cross-cultural competencies and build their self-confidence and independence.

Pillar 5: Transformative Summer Experiences

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Dorson Community Foundation

280 South Harrison Street, Suite 300

East Orange, New Jersey 07018


P (973) 280-9565