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Gateway Student Gives Back to The Program that Changed Her Life

May, 2019
  • Gateway to College student Ginny McKay
    Gateway to College student Ginny McKay

Gateway to College holds a very special place in the heart of Ginny McKay. The Gateway to College program has been so life-changing for her that she felt the need to give back…and give back she did! Ms. McKay is currently running a donation fundraiser through her Facebook page for QCC’s Gateway to College program that has already raised over $2,300, well over the $2,000 goal she had set.

“Gateway is such a great program. The traditional high school route is not always the best way for kids to learn,” she said.

Ms. McKay’s story, like many in the Gateway to College program, is one of perseverance and triumph. Ms. McKay began her life in Seoul, Korea where she was adopted by her parents as a newborn and brought back to York, Maine where she lived for the first 14 years of her life, before moving to Stow, MA. She said the lack of diversity in the towns she lived in made it difficult to fit in and be her authentic self. In the middle of her sophomore year in high school, the pressure became too much and she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She left school for two months to deal with things, coming back to her high school only to find that she felt she did not belong there.

“I heard a girl in the school library talking about the Gateway to College program and I did my own research and went to an information session. It sparked hope in my life hearing other students’ stories and struggles that I could relate to,” she said.

Ms. McKay did not get into Gateway to College the first semester she applied; however, she did get into the college’s Attend College Early (ACE) Program. The program allowed her to attend college while simultaneously working to complete her high school graduation requirements.

“I felt a lot more comfortable at QCC. There was so much more diversity and everyone was so nice,” she said. “I reapplied for the Gateway to College program in spring 2018 and everything just completely changed for me. The staff was so encouraging and willing to help. They support you through everything. This is such a nice way to transition to college.”

The Gateway to College program is designed to assist students (16-20) who have dropped out of high school or who may not graduate. Through the program, students can obtain their high school diploma and earn college credits all at the same time. QCC's Gateway Program is part of a national network that includes 35 programs in 20 states.

“The Gateway Program is designed to be a very personal experience for students; we have three full time staff members for about 50 students, so each student is given a lot of individual attention. We also have small classes and instructors who are very aware of the struggles our students have,” said Senior Gateway Outreach Counselor Jenna Glazer. “We all work together to support students; staff, faculty, other students and parents. We’re all in it for the same reason.”

Ms. McKay said the program helped to give her the confidence she needed to be her “true self.” She said she has now finished high school earlier than she would have with a much higher grade point average than she when she came into the program. In fact, she became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and for the last two semesters has been working as a tutor at the Writing Center.

“Gateway to College is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. My whole experience at QCC has been nothing but good,” she said. “It’s hard to explain how much it has meant to me. I wouldn’t have gotten through any of this without the unconditional support of my family, friends and the staff at Gateway.”

QCC’s Director of Gateway to College Marci Skillings and Ms. Glazer both noted the confidence that Ms. McKay now demonstrates.

“Ginny really came out of her shell while she was in the program. She was very reserved at first and now she is much more comfortable with both staff, faculty and students,” Ms. Glazer said.

The future is bright for Ms. McKay. She is already that much closer to obtaining her associate degree in Psychology from QCC thanks to the Gateway to College program.

“In a year I will be graduating from QCC with my associate degree and from there I want to transfer and finish my bachelor’s degree. I really want to help people and I’m thinking I’d like to do social work or be a school counselor,” she said.

Ms. Skillings said she hopes that through Ms. McKay’s story people will recognize that this type of program can change someone's life.

“We are a place to give someone a second chance. Also, many students come to us for different reasons and we are here for anyone, whatever the reason. We want to help students get the education and support they need to show themselves and others what they are capable of,” she said.

Visit QCC’s Gateway to College Program to learn more.