First College Success Program students graduate college

CSP Graduation
Monday, May 23, 2011

TPI congratulates four students in the College Success Program’s (CSP) “pilot class” on their recent college graduation.  Crystal Ramos, Gregory Herman, Jasmin Ramos, and Tiffany Butler successfully completed their undergraduate requirements and represent the first CSP alumni.

CSP was launched in 2007 with the support of an anonymous donor.  Administered by TPI, the program selects graduates from New York City high schools who are enrolled in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Program.  CSP students receive “pocket money” and flexible financial support throughout their college career, including a small monthly stipend, money to purchase books, a laptop, support to travel to and from school, stipends for summer internships, funding for study abroad, and other support as necessary.  Students are also paired with a mentor who they check in with on a monthly basis and they take part in activities with the entire CSP group during school breaks.

As the first group to graduate from CSP, TPI looks to learn from the experiences of these four students in hopes of improving the program in the future. Below are reflections from the students on their four years in college and the role that CSP played in their journey.


Crystal Ramos: College of Mount Saint Vincent, Major in Liberal Studies

What has being in college done for you?

It really made me appreciate my parents’ effort in coming to this country (from Mexico).  If I was still there, I would be married and have kids now.  I’ve always been responsible, but I think I’ve learned how to make better decisions.  I’ve learned not to rush things.  I’ve also become more aware of what’s going on in the world.   And I learned not to be so involved in what was going on with my family – to distance myself

What surprised you about college?

It was more challenging than I expected – nothing like high school.  In high school, I thought I was good in math, but in college I learned that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.  

Do you think College of Mount Saint Vincent was a good choice for you?  Would you recommend it to other students? 

Yes, it’s a very homey environment. There are fewer students and it’s a beautiful campus.  The religious aspect really helped when I was depressed – I could go to chapel and it made me feel better.  Some classes are taught by nuns and they are very sympathetic.     

What are your plans? 

In June, I start at Dominican College – I will study nursing for a year and graduate with a second Bachelor’s degree – this one in nursing.  Next May I plan to be a nurse.  I want to work with the elderly – they can give me so much advice.   I’ll keep living at home for a few years to help my parents financially.  This is their accomplishment too.  I owe it to them before I go off on my own.   

How did CSP help you?

The guidance was really important.  As the first in my family to go to college I didn’t know what to do.  It was great to have someone to go to for advice and help making decisions.  My family couldn’t have afforded a laptop.  It would have been a struggle for them to pay for books and transportation.

What advice do you have for the CSP program?

You should look for people who are humble – who appreciate what they are given and take advantage of what is offered.  You shouldn’t just focus on the brightest students – sometimes they have less dedication and effort.  Older students could also help to mentor younger students – for example, if someone chose to study nursing, I could help them.  It would be good to have more one-on-one connections. 

Gregory Herman: University of Vermont, Major in Psychology







What has being at college done for you?  How are you different than when you started?  

I just received two leadership awards.  I got the Angela Batista award for anti-racist work from the ALANA (African-American, Latino, Asian, Native American) student organization and the Social Justice award from the Davis Student Center (where I work).  I’m still quiet, but in a big way.  Now I’m capable of leading my peers.  I have a lot more confidence.

What changed you?  

Running for student government – taking that first step.  There was no turning back after that.  It was a huge challenge, but I’ve never been a quitter.  Being here has made me review my own identity as a heterosexual black man who comes from a lack of privilege.  For my first 18 years I never examined myself.  Being someplace where I am not comfortable made me examine myself – how my identity affects me and those around me.  My courses helped me to face issues of racism and privilege.

What will you take away with you when you leave UVM? 

My open-mindedness – the ability to deal with people from different races, religions, sexual orientation.  I’m not afraid now to speak up – I know what’s right and what’s wrong.  

Would you recommend UVM to other students? 

It has great resources – the professors are very intellectual.  I know I will keep in touch with some of them for the rest of my life.  There is openness here, a liberal perspective.  But you shouldn’t come here if you can’t deal with a lack of diversity.  Being in a place where minorities are only 8 or 10 percent is uncomfortable.  But I think that getting out of your comfort zone is why you go to college.

What are your plans? 

Tiffany and I got an apartment in Harlem.  I’m starting Teach for America.  Training starts in June and then I hope to get hired to teach in a school in NYC. I made a two-year commitment to Teach for America.  I’m also hoping to start graduate school in the fall.  My plan is to be a youth development worker – to work with at-risk youth in a non-profit. 

How did CSP help you?

While you gave us a small amount each semester, it added up. I look at my friends who didn’t have the program and many of them left school because of the smallest things –they couldn’t afford to go home or to keep their cell phone on to talk to their family.  The smallest things are very important.  You also made us aware of things – articles, information on programs - and gave us options. 

Jasmin Ramos: Pace University, Major in Marketing








What has being in college done for you?

I’ve become more confident of who I am.  In high school I worried about good grades, getting on the honor roll, making my parents happy.  In college, I realized it’s about learning.  I’m more ambitious now.  In college I was surrounded by two kinds of people – those who have money and those who are in the same situation as me – first generation college students.  I realized that it is good to hold on to your culture, but I’ve also become exposed to other things.

Do you think Pace was a good choice for you?  Would you recommend it to other students?

Pace is a little cold; it’s very big.  But the professors are very experienced; they have experience in the real world.  I found friends here.  I’ve developed a lot of skills.

What surprised you about college?

It is very time consuming.  I often didn’t get home from studying until 1 a.m.

What are your plans?  

I’m going to Scandinavia for two weeks as part of a Pace marketing course.  After that I’ll be searching for a job.  I hope to work for a corporation in their Spanish department, helping with marketing to Latin America.  

How did CSP help you?

I was able to travel – to Peru the summer after my freshman year, and now to Europe.  I never thought I’d be able to do that.  The money for transportation was very helpful.  The internship at SCO Family of Services gave me a lot of experience related to my major.

What advice do you have for us?

When you choose students – what is important is that they show responsibility and dedication.  Also, when we all get together as a group, it would be good to mix students up, so people don’t just talk to their friends.  There should be more group activities. It was also very good to invite parents to our first dinner.  It really helped my mother to meet you - it helped her understand that this was a special program and it made her more comfortable with me going abroad and doing other things with program support.

Tiffany Butler: University of Vermont, Major in Business







What has being in college done for you? 

I’ve learned about myself as a person of color.  At a predominately white college race is always a topic.  I’ve learned about other people too and I’ve grown tons in terms of my mindset.  Each year has gotten better, as I’ve gotten more involved.  It will actually be emotional leaving Vermont.  I’ve formed a lot of relationships here.

Do you think coming to UVM was a good choice? 

Yes.  I didn’t think that two years ago, but now I know that learning about myself and about different cultures will help me in the future.  And I learned how to recycle compost in Vermont! 

Have you grown intellectually? 

I pushed myself as far as I could go.  I learned how to study and to apply information – especially in business school where we used case studies.  I wasn’t prepared for college and I also had to adjust to a really big culture shock in the beginning. 

Would you recommend UVM to other students? 

If you want something totally different, yes.  UVM has a ways to go to nurture diversity.  It’s not just about having minority students here; you have to make them want to stay. 

What are your plans? 

I’m looking for a job in Human Resources in the private sector.  I’m going to live with Greg in an apartment in Harlem that is located between both of our families.  I plan to go to graduate school, but want to take time off from school for a few years.

How did CSP help you?

It saved my family a lot of expenses.  The mentoring was big.  It is about support if you want to sum it up.

What advice do you have for us? 

You should pick students who are passionate about going to college and who struggle financially.  You should develop peer mentoring – I’d be glad to be involved as an alumna helping new college students.  CSP could offer workshops in topics like resumes, interviewing skills, time management skills, and studying.