There are not many days more important in a parent’s life than the day their child graduates from high school, except maybe the day their child graduates from college. Thanks to the Crossroads Foundation, the parents of 27 students are on their way to seeing both of their dreams come true.

The Crossroads Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides “holistic scholarships” to at risk students living in urban areas in the Pittsburgh region. Through the program these students receive tuition assistance to attend catholic high schools as well as intensive academic and psychosocial support services.

REX CRAWLEY (Photo by J.L. Martello).

“The scholars came here to journey up the road to education. We made it this far with the help of the Crossroads Foundation,” said Christina Gassette, mother of Tyrone Pugh one of this year’s Crossroads scholars. “The counselors were there when we needed someone to talk to.”

At the Crossroads Foundation’s Class of 2011 Senior Recognition Dinner on April 25, the Crossroads scholars gathered with their family, friends, and mentors to celebrate their accomplishments. Of this year’s 26 seniors, 16 are African-American and all are going on to college.

“We know the hard work you have done to be here. This is what it’s all about. It’s about graduation,” said Executive Director Florence Rouzier. “All of you are graduating. All of you are going to college.”

The evening’s keynote speaker was Rex Crawley, Ph.D., the assistant dean of the school of communication at Robert Morris University. Like many of the scholars, Crawley said he came from humble beginnings, but through his education he has been able to ensure future generations in his family are more prosperous.

“Your education is something you have to value. This for me is the most incredible time of year because I get to see dreams realized,” said Rex Crawley. “At this crossroads, you have a choice to make. You can either choose the path to success or the road to mediocrity and failure.”

This year’s graduates boast a long list of scholarships and an even longer list of career aspirations. They say their experience with the Crossroads has had an immeasurable impact on their life.

“They motivated me to do better in my classes,” said Steven Leerberg who gave the dinner’s invocation. “Those morals and values they taught me, I’ll definitely take them to college and carry them with me.”

The Crossroads academic support program provides students with individual academic counseling, tutoring, and standardized test preparations. The college readiness support program includes a summer pre-college program and college mentoring.

Students in the Crossroads Foundation are just as focused on academics, as they are on their overall advancement. The psychosocial support program teaches them manners and finance and demands they fulfill volunteer and service learning commitments.

“It’s a different environment. You have more one on one time if you need it. They have high expectations for everyone,” said Asia Harris, who completed over 400 volunteer hours. “One of the programs they gave us the opportunity to be a part of was a college preparatory program.”

The graduates also had the opportunity to interact with past Crossroads scholars. Among them was Janard Pendleton, a University of Pittsburgh student currently seeking his Ph.D. who is also a member of the Crossroads board of directors.

“(This experience) definitely gave me an opportunity for education and contributed to me being a lifetime learner,” Pendleton said. “From the first time I came into the program, they taught me the importance of giving back so it was really important for me to come back and be a part of this.”

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