A Message from Our Executive Director
Two Ivy League degrees. Private school educated. Two-parent household. World-traveled. I am my ancestors' wildest dreams. While I have worked hard, and have been blessed with opportunities, I am also the exception to the rule. I am an outlier in a system that denies most other Black students equal and equitable access to a quality education; a system where young people who look like me often find their potentials unrealized; a system where no matter how hard you work, being born in the “wrong” zip code might mean your opportunities are squandered before you were even born. Dorson Community Foundation was founded with a tunnel-vision focus on helping students from under-served communities overcome these very inequities, and bridge the gap of opportunity in their lives.
While children from the affluent and predominantly White Essex County suburb of Millburn-Short Hills enjoy one of New Jersey’s leading public school systems, a mere 10 miles away in the predominantly Black and Latino inner-city of Newark, only 50% of students at Barringer Arts High School graduate on time -- among the lowest rates in the state. My mother, the founder of Dorson and a business owner in the inner-city of East Orange, observed the differences between the suburbs and low-income communities of Essex County. She watched as the employees of her home care agency -- predominantly immigrant, low-income, single mothers -- struggled to raise their children amid the stress of an urban environment and provide the necessary resources to fulfill their slice of the American dream. Tired of watching an unequal pathway set out for Black and Latino youth in the inner-city, my mother refused to sit idly awaiting political intervention. She took action herself. She knew these students’ lives mattered well before it became a novelty to believe so.
In 1992, Dorson was established in East Orange with a mission to level the playing field for these youth and provide opportunities, mentorship, and a safe environment for them to realize their potential. Over its 28-year tenure, Dorson has offered a wide spectrum of programming open to youth in the local community, including free business literacy classes, a free computer lab, free SAT prep classes for high school students, a dance studio offering classes for boys and girls of all ages, advising to college-bound high school seniors, and so much more.
Our students are accomplished scholars and our programs have made a tangible impact in their lives, and all of this was made possible through an all-volunteer team with zero paid staff and a shoestring budget.
As a child growing up in Dorson programs myself, I watched from the backseat as my mother drove around Essex County dropping students home after late night SAT prep classes. I’ve watched my father write a personal check to pay for students to attend summer programs when fundraising efforts fell short. I’ve watched volunteers spend hours reviewing students’ college applications and scholarship essays. For nearly three decades, we’ve been supporting highly-motivated inner-city students with great potential and telling them about their value in the world; we’ve been investing our time, money, and resources in their futures; and we’ve been connecting them to opportunities to direct them on a pathway towards success. At Dorson, we’ve been long committed to this fight to change the outcomes for Black and Latino youth, before anybody cared, back when others thought societal change was too difficult, and before it was a hot ticket issue.
As the country and national consciousness have awoken to the inequalities facing Black lives, I’ve grown hopeful. Hopeful that Dorson can finally receive the overdue support and resources from corporations and individuals stepping up to this battle. While education was intended to be the great equalizer, it’s evident it is not, and that organizations like Dorson are essential to closing the opportunity gap for youth from under-served communities.
For newcomers entering this fight for racial justice, we ask that you join Dorson in the decades of hard work we’ve extended in the name of empowering students from the inner-city. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the educational inequities facing Black and Latino children, and makes our support of these students’ futures that much more critical. It’s been our driving devotion to our students and guidance under my mother’s greater vision for inner-city youth, that has kept us going. Now, we need your help.
Help us increase our impact and reach by MAKING A DONATION to our organization.
We look forward to your investment in our promising, young Scholars!