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Non-profit pleas for funding after decrease in student participation

On Point Volunteer Fred Gilbeaux helping Student Sequoia Kemp
On Point volunteer Fred Gilbeaux helps student Sequoia Kemp.

On Point for College, could get a financial boost after Syracuse Common Council met Wednesday. The council appeared ready to set aside up to $350,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act to increase the recruitment On Point is lacking.

The non-profit organization help students overcome the barriers to higher education by keeping disadvantaged students on track for college.

Executive Director Sam Rowser told councilors their student enrollment dropped by half since the pandemic. Rowser said nearly 740 students were enrolled in the program three years ago. But currently, On Point is down to about 320 students, which means fewer young people are receiving the group's support for college. He said COVID-19 and funding issues made it difficult to recruit.

"Closed our doors, not have texting platforms, not be able to go to community centers, not be able to do the things we were traditionally able to do to meet young people and get them engaged and get them in college. The deficit is our young people in the community not getting to us and not having the access," Rowser said.

Rowser said the funding would help make college opportunities available to more students from lower-income families and communities.

Councilor Chol Majok, an On Point alum, spoke in support of Rowser. Majok came to the U.S. from South Sudan as a young boy. English was not his first language but On Point supported him. Majok encouraged his fellow councilors to approve the agreement because he believed On Point could benefit others just like it did for him.

"If I were to vote on this, this would probably be one of the best votes I'd have to do on the council, we always talk about planning and investing in our city youth and city kids — this is probably it right here," Majok said.

Council is scheduled to vote Monday at 1 p.m.