After her mother was killed in the Haiti earthquake tragedy, her Dad brought the family here.
It was a tough transition for any kid. But 18 year old Guesnaisha Alterna said what saved her was a friend already going to PROPEL.
The program helps at-risk kids succeed academically with tutoring, literacy, leadership training and life skills.
Fast-forward and Alterna just graduated Boca High and has a free ride to Florida Atlantic University. Not only was she a chosen Kelly/Strul Emerging Scholar, “G” was among six PROPEL seniors headed to college. She already started and moved into a freshman dorm.
“I’m majoring in computer science,” she told Boca Voice.
Her mom was a teacher when the school collapsed in the 2010 earthquake. “Everything was destroyed,” she said.
That left her father to raise seven kids, including three stepsisters. The family moved here when G was 9.
“I was quiet,” she said, not sure how to fit in. Then her friend urged her to go to PROPEL. “They helped me study. And everybody has so much fun and you learn so much. I made my little sister join,” she said.
Kids like G “exceeded our expectations, “ said Marta Batmasian. She and her husband Jim founded PROPEL with local business folks in 2004.
“Several of our kids qualified for four-year full scholarships at an unprecedented level,” she said. “Without parental presence and a difficult home life, their ambitions to excel are contagious.”
She credits the success rate to enrolling when they were younger and “the amazing administrative staff.”
“They all overcame personal and academic challenges,” PROPEL CEO Gregg Francis said about the six headed to college.
The others are Mudrine Cesar, Cynthia LeConte, Rolex St. Preux, Thierry-Ven Celin, Savannah Marshall and Begee Mondesir.
Four 2018 PROPEL grads made FAU’s Dean’s List. They are McKenley Benoit, Michel Issac, Garsendy St. Fleur and Williamson Emilcar.
The nonprofit stands for People Reaching Out to Provide Education and Leadership. It now serves at least 80 students weekly in south Palm Beach County. Their median family income is about $25,000.