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 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 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.
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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.
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.
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."