Extraordinary Individuals To Represent NCAN at the First Lady’s Beat the Odds Summit

July 21, 2015
By Elizabeth Morgan, Director of External Relations

NCAN is proud that the White House invited students from 26 of our nonprofit member organizations to participate in the Beat the Odds Summit, which will bring together 150 college-bound 2015 high school graduates from across the country on Thursday. Hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, the summit, will engage students in resource-rich panels and discussions to better preparation for their academic journeys ahead. 

Here are the remarkable stories of two students and one program leader from The College Initiative (Memphis, TN) that NCAN selected to represent the NCAN membership at large at Beat the Odds 2015. 

Bettie Elston just graduated in the top 10 percent of her class from Fairley High School in Memphis and will attend the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with plans to major in biology. After a difficult childhood of losing a mother to cancer and being separated from siblings, Bettie gained a passion for people. She plans to finish undergraduate school and gain admission into Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine to train as a doctor. Bettie chose the medical field because she hates to see people suffer. She knows that if she tries hard enough and educates herself, she can make a difference. 

Dellarontay Readus is the recent valedictorian of the Melrose High School in Memphis. He has earned prestigious awards from the National Civil Rights Museum, International Paper, Leadership Memphis, Samsung, The College Initiative, Memphis Challenge, and the Memphis Beat the Odds program. Despite the challenges of being raised by a single, blind, and ill mother, Dellarontay worked very hard to earn a full ride to Stanford University to study computer science. He says this great opportunity will not only further his education but also improve the long-term outlook for himself and his family. 

Both Bettie and Dellarontay received support during high school from The College Initiative (TCI), a nonprofit organization that partners with Memphis high schools to provide low-income students with college planning support. Gabriel Fotsing, now age 29, founded TCI in 2010 and will attend Beat the Odds 2015 with Bettie and Dellarontay. He has a remarkable story of his own. 

Gabriel came to the United States as a young teen from Cameroon in 2000 speaking no English. During high school in Houston, Texas, he knew that he wanted to go to college, but he also knew that his parents could not afford his college education. He read all the books he could find about college admissions, scholarships, and standardized test preparation. Gabriel also mentored other students on college and scholarships applications and helped them earn more than $900,000 in scholarships. His senior year, he applied and was accepted to 10 colleges. Gabriel attended Harvard University on full scholarship where he studied economics and French. Upon graduation in 2010, Gabriel joined Teach For America and taught French, physical science, and AP biology at Lee Senior High School in Marianna, Ark.

“No kid grows up wanting to be mediocre or average, let alone below average,” Gabriel said during his tenure with Teach For America. “All students want better lives for themselves and their families, and they understand the crucial advantage they would gain from a college education. Yet, they do not have the tools or the mentorship to get there. A kid from Marianna, Ark., should have the same opportunity to attend the university of her choice, as a kid from Beverly Hills.”

TCI now serves 150 students at 20 Memphis high schools with a vision to reach 15,000 students by 2020. TCI supports students with academic guidance to choose college prep high school courses, ACT and SAT test prep, financial aid advising, scholarship search assistance, and college admissions advising. 

Twenty-five NCAN member organizations were invited to Beat the Odds 2015 based on the commitments they made to expanding college opportunity at President Obama’s College Opportunity Summit in December 2014. Thirty-three additional NCAN members nominated students to NCAN, and we randomly selected Bettie and Dellarontay from The College Initiative to represent the NCAN membership at large at the First Lady’s event. 

NAN members the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the College Advising Corps, and uAspire will also be among the presenters sharing valuable information with the students. 

Other NCAN members invited to Beat the Odds 2015:

Berea College Outreach Programs
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri
Bottom Line
College Forward
College Possible
College Success Foundation
College Success Foundation - DC
College Track
CollegeBound Foundation
Florida College Access Network
Get Schooled
Goddard Riverside Community Center
I Have a Dream Foundation - National
I Know I Can
Illinois Student Assistance Commission
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Kresge Foundation
On Point for College
Say Yes To Education - Buffalo
The College Board
The Opportunity Network
WE CAN! Newaygo County

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