At-Risk LIC, Astoria Teens Beat the Odds with Community Help

More than two dozen Long Island City and Astoria teenagers have beaten the odds and are now heading off to college thanks to the help of two local foundations.

It's a proud moment for any student , high school graduation and heading off college.

And for a group of Long Island City and Astoria teens, it's a goal they've been working towards for nearly 10 years with the help of the I Have a Dream and Elmezzi Foundations.

"We recruited them when they were in elementary school, 60 kids," said Elmezzi Foundation Executive Director Pooja O'Hanlon.

All in high school now, the majority of the Elmezzi Foundation's I have a Dream New York: Ravenswood II program participants call the Ravenswood Public Housing Development home and as part of the program received both academic and social support over the last decade.

Now 25 of the original 60 participants are of graduating age and 100 percent of that group has been accepted to college.

"There's a lot of drug related issues, a lot of fighting, just a lot of nonsense going on in my neighborhood and being part of I Have a Dream kept me away from all of that," said I Have a Dream participant Willie Britton.

Now that that the students have been accepted into college comes the challenge of paying for it and the Elmezzi Foundation is helping them with that as well.

All of them are eligible for help, assistance, they get some dollars, scholarships, grants and then we we cover the rest of it, " said Elmezzi Foundation Chairman and President Jose Rivero.

But the students in the program aren't the only ones who have benefited from the initiative over the years.

"A number of our parents I can say have either earned their GED or gone back to college," said I Have a Dream Program Director Karlisle Honore.

An additional achievement that might not have been possible without the commitment by those involved in the program.

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