supporting Cambridge public school students

Four CRLS Seniors Win 4-Year College Scholarships with Support from CSV


Above, Director of High School Volunteers Laura Margosian, Filmon Elias, and volunteer Catherine Doyle

There is cause for celebration among the 70+ students and their tutor/advisors in CSV’s College Planning, Application and Essay Writing program. Four remarkable students, all children of recent immigrants to the United States, have obtained full, four-year scholarships worthy of note, and each with the guidance of one or more CSV College tutors. Congratulations to Adem Ahmed, Naika Clergeau, Atetegeb “Gabby” Fekade, and Filmon Elias!

Adem Ahmed, who is of Ethiopian descent, has won a Posse scholarship to Bucknell University. The Posse Foundation recruits public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential and prepares them to succeed in the nation’s top colleges. As Adem describes it, “my tutor team at CSV helped me with everything from the essay to the interview.” He worked closely with tutors Gail Wiggins, a 7-year CSV tutor, on interview preparation and Liz Alcock on his application and essay.

Two young women have also fulfilled their biggest dreams with full scholarships. One is Naika Clergeau, originally from Haiti, who worked with tutor Rich Levine, a CSV volunteer in his 8th year and retired physician. Naika will be the first in her family to attend college. As Naika recalls, she and Rich did “a lot of talking about what message I wanted to send through my essay. My tutor was really dedicated to making sure that I was able to express my thoughts.” Naika has won a four-year Progressive Scholar scholarship from Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire. The program is modeled after the Posse program. Another Progressive Scholar award has been conferred on Atetegeb “Gabby” Fekade, a student matched with tutor Gail Wiggins. Gail helped Gabby re-write and edit several required essays for the Progressive Scholarship application. Gabby comes from Ethiopia and will be the first in her family to attend a four-year college.

Filmon Elias received a full scholarship to Worcester Polytechnic Institute after working with his CSV tutor Catherine Doyle “at least a dozen times” on his application and college essay.  Filmon is from Eritrea, and his family moved here to escape war and instability in his homeland.  Catherine Doyle is in her third year at CSV and is a professional college counselor consultant. She has been a significant contributor to countless seniors on the college path in addition to tutoring a variety of students in English.

Catherine builds the relationship with her student over time.  “After our third tutoring session together,” she says, “I tell my students, ‘If you succeed, I succeed.’  I try to help them to access the best college possible. For Filmon his accomplishments stand on their own: President of the Robotics Club, an excellent, hard working student, and a pure delight.”

Begun more than eight years ago with CSV Director of High School Volunteers Laura Margosian at the helm, CSV’s College Planning and Essay Writing has grown into a model program. “With college applications more competitive than ever, the college essay has become a distinguishing factor,” says Laura.  “Our goal is not just about students producing polished essays but to help them draw out their personal stories and find meaning, develop outlines and action steps, improve grammar comprehension through revisions, and uphold their authentic voice in the their final drafts.”

Tutors are matched one-to-one with the same students for at least two hours per week, and usually more. Some of the many tasks that advisor and student undertake are: choosing a college that seems a good fit; brainstorming themes for different essays (college, scholarship and supplemental); creating outlines; editing and critiquing essay drafts; and looking for financial aid and scholarships.

College tutors bring many skills to the mentoring relationship. Some are graduate students; others are parents, consultants, or counselors. All students and tutors sign a contract, agreeing to terms of timeliness and frequent check-ins. And all tutors are volunteers, ensuring that students can obtain free, one-to-one help with the college application process.

The College Planning and Essay Writing program has collaborated closely with both the CRLS English and Guidance departments over the years. Their continued support has helped to sustain the mission of the program. Please join CSV in congratulating these talented, engaging students and thanking their committed tutors for a job well done! Stay tuned for more good news about college acceptances for the dozens of other seniors who participated in the program this year.