JP Kids: JP’s Bottom Line gets kids through college

April 25, 2014
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Bottom Line, an organization based at 500 Amory St., is helping low-income and first-generation students graduate from college in droves. It’s founded on the belief that students are more likely to succeed in their education when paired with a mentor during their college applications and educations

The program can last up to seven years, with each student checking in with one mentor throughout that whole time, Executive Director Mike Wasserman told the Gazette. They meet after school and on weekends, for in-depth meetings lasting up to two hours.

“We try to provide comprehensive support throughout the process, including financial aid, to choose the school with the best fit for each student,” Wasserman said.

That part is critical, Wasserman emphasized. The mentors work with the kids to find schools that will be a good fit academically, culturally and financially, to ensure that each student graduates.

“We try and make sure the student has the environment they want, provides the education they want, but that is also affordable,” Wasserman said, explaining that accepting a spot at a top school that charges top fees will not help a student who can’t graduate because of academic and financial pressures.

It’s the one-on-one counseling that really gets students through, Wasserman said.

“We have a lot of students in unique situations. They need someone who cares about them and knows what they’re going through,” Wasserman said.

One example Bottom Line worked with was a high school honor student who started college at UMass Armherst. She felt lost there, and found out after one semester that she was pregnant.

“It happens a lot. Often, those students leave education and don’t come back,” Wasserman said.

That student, however, transferred back to UMass Boston. She’s currently raising her child and running a support group for new mothers, and is expected to graduate next year, Wasserman said.

“A lot of it is due to her own drive, but you can see all these points where she could’ve left without guidance,” he said.

Since Dave Borgal, a former high school guidance counselor, founded the organization in 1997, with only 25 students, Bottom Line has expanded to three offices in Massachusetts.

“He saw that his students were heading off to college and dropping out. He thought there had to be a way to continue that support,” Wasserman said.

Currently, Bottom Line mentors 2,350 students across the state, and the staff are hoping to add another 1,000 over the next two years.

“We’re trying to grow so the majority of students from Boston can go to a four-year college,” Wasserman said.

Bottom Line’s website is bottomline.org.

Bottom Line Massachusetts Executive Director Mike Wasserman (center) joins student speakers Mariama Sano (left) and Tarialis Garcia (right) at the organization’s recent annual “Get In, Graduate and Go Far” dinner. (Courtesy Photo)

Bottom Line Massachusetts Executive Director Mike Wasserman (center) joins student speakers Mariama Sano (left) and Tarialis Garcia (right) at the organization’s recent annual “Get In, Graduate and Go Far” dinner. (Courtesy Photo)