Oprah Winfrey Pledges $5 million to Support Pathways to College to Support Youth Education

Gift will help Pathways to College develop a national model for after-school program

Montclair, New Jersey – Pathways to Collegea nonprofit after-school program that supports students of color in school districts with fewer resources, announced today, February 20, 2020, at luncheon provided by the Turrell Fund, at the Van Vleck House and Gardens, it is the recipient of a $5 million grant from the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation. The grant includes a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution of up to $2 million pledged over the next two years.

“I celebrate and honor the work Pathways to College does in securing futures for young people who want to go to college,” said Oprah Winfrey. “I am proud to sponsor and support all of these young people and their dreams for a better life through education.”

Established in 2003, Pathways to College has successfully operated in more than 20 program sites across the country, including high schools in Newark, New Jersey, where Pathways has been for the longest duration. More than 4,000 students have participated in the program. Historically, 100 percent of its graduating “Scholars” have earned college admission and the program maintains a matriculation rate of 90 percent.

Pathways to College provides students with information, guidance and support they need to become the best high school students, college applicants and college students they can be,” said Judith Griffin, president of Pathways to College. “The Pathways curriculum is built around three focused ideas for students: we believe in them and their abilities; their goals and dreams are worthy of encouragement and support; and it is important to us that they gain the self-confidence to be successful.”

Pathways to College’s research-based curriculum is built around nonremedial coaching support, targeting the life skills and intellectual habits needed to prepare for students’ success in college and in their desired careers. These life skills, including critical thinking, analysis, teamwork, research, becoming life-long learners and “citizens of the world,” are baked into a school-year-long program that assists students for a minimum of four hours each week. Along with these teaching and coaching sessions, students participate in a range of out-of-school meetings, events and trips, including several days of college tours.

By building a network of Program Sites around the country, Pathways gives students and teachers the understanding that they are part of a larger group primed and expected to make a difference. There are roughly 100 students in the program at each participating high school, but teachers and students actively seek to make a schoolwide impact. The Pathways program has achieved consistent and noteworthy success in urban, suburban and rural high schools in multiple states.

“We are honored to celebrate and support the decades-long impact of Pathways to College and its commitment to providing high school students in Newark and across the country with the confidence and support they need to become college students,” said Curtland E. Fields, president of the Turrell Fund, a supporter of arts, education and family support service organizations.

Gifted funds are used to further Pathways’ mission in providing support for even more students in low resourced school districts. Pathways to College can be replicated in any urban, suburban or rural school district, but it requires a strong commitment from both the school district and the community. In order to ensure a sustainable future, Pathways is seeking additional funds to maximize the generosity of Ms. Winfrey.

“The children we serve belong to us all – and as a country, we cannot afford to waste the gifts and abilities of any of them,” said Griffin. “Therefore, identifying potential and developing leaders in under-represented populations remains a critical challenge. Our mission is to contribute to finding a viable way to address this challenge, and we believe we have done so. Ms. Winfrey’s extraordinary generosity will help us partner with an increasing number of schools that want our help and set in place the necessary plans to inform and involve local donors to help supply funding beyond what is possible for schools to absorb. We are deeply grateful to her.”

For more information about Pathways to College, visit pathwaystocollege.org


Biography: Judith Griffin, President

Ms. Griffin founded Pathways to College in 1994 while serving as national president of A Better Chance. Her vision was to create an after-school initiative to help high-potential students of color develop critical thinking skills and habits of mind to make achieving a college education an attainable goal. Nine years later, she launched Pathways as an independent non-profit organization that continues to grow under her leadership.

Ms. Griffin was executive assistant to the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education. She has been an elementary school principal and a visiting lecturer/faculty member at three colleges. She is the author of three acclaimed children’s books.

Ms. Griffin earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and her graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and Columbia University. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by Gettysburg College. In 2008, she was a recipient of the Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education.