One Million Degrees empowers students at Harper College - FOX 35 News Orlando

One Million Degrees empowers low income students at Harper College

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Ashley Porter attends Suited for Success, wearing Brooks Brothers. (Jessica Besser-Rosenberg of One Million Degrees) Ashley Porter attends Suited for Success, wearing Brooks Brothers. (Jessica Besser-Rosenberg of One Million Degrees)
Ashley Porter speaks with mentor Theresa Bartels at Suited for Success, wearing Brooks Brothers. (Jessica Besser-Rosenberg of One Million Degrees) Ashley Porter speaks with mentor Theresa Bartels at Suited for Success, wearing Brooks Brothers. (Jessica Besser-Rosenberg of One Million Degrees)
(Ashley Porter) (Ashley Porter)
(Ashley Porter) (Ashley Porter)
(FOX 32's Tisha Lewis) (FOX 32's Tisha Lewis)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

As the famous adage goes, the third time is the charm. McHenry native and single mother Ashley Porter, 29, is hoping that's true. It's her third try at college.

"I was kind of afraid that I wasn't going to follow through with my commitment," Porter told FOX 32 News. "So being a part of One Million Degrees, they hold me accountable."

The One Million Degrees program has empowered low income and highly motivated community college students by providing financial, academic and personal support since 2006. The program is funded by private donations and grants.

Each scholar receives a suit, a mentor and all the tools for success.

"I have been pushed more than I would have pushed myself. I like the me that's developing," Porter said. "When I get dressed in my Brooks Brothers outfit and I attend these events in the evening, I walk out of there feeling very confident, feeling there's a side of me that can do things I never thought I could do."

The One Million Degrees scholar attends Olive-Harvey College in Chicago. But starting this fall, the program is expanding to Harper College in Palatine.

"People don't think that there is poverty in the suburbs," One Million Degrees Director of Research and Communications Jessica Besser-Rosenberg told FOX 32. "In fact, there is poverty and there [are] larger pockets of poverty [growing] in and around the Harper College area."

Palatine students awarded Pell grants in the last five years increased more than 80 percent. The amount of financial aid awarded more than doubled in the same amount of time.

"The proof is there that the need is there," Harper College One Million Degrees Program Director Kristin Hoffhines said. She's spent more than two decades working in academia.

"Our first cohort will be 40 students that we'll select probably in April," Hoffhines told FOX 32. "But the goal is to grow the program exponentially."

The program aims to help one million students achieve the dream of higher education. Ashley Porter is just the beginning.

Porter said volunteering for Hurricane Katrina relief sparked her interest in becoming a social worker. She graduates in May.

One million degrees is accepting applications right now. Check out the official website for more information.

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