The York YWCA's Quantum Opportunities Program has a new home this year.

Formerly at William Penn Senior High School, the higher education prep program with the goal of sending inner city youth to college now has the benefit of a direct connection to York College.

"All they ever wanted to do was for me to make it to college," said Chris Agbanyo, 19, about his parents — immigrants from Guyana, South America, and Togo, Africa.

Now a junior at York College after completing the Quantum program, Agbanyo is majoring in information technology management with a cumulative 3.92 grade point average and is heavily involved with campus activities such as Greek life.

"It was the support," he said. "The support is the greatest part of that program."

For four days a week after school, high school students work with program director Mike Smith on elements such as SAT prep, improving grade point average, life skills, drug and alcohol prevention education, and community service.

Now 50 students attend the free program at 59 E. Market St., in downtown York City, which helps bridge the gap between the city and the college through assistance from staff and resources, as well as student volunteers.

"I really believe in that kind of peer-to-peer mentoring," said Dominic DelliCarpini, the dean of York College's Center for Community Engagement.

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The college already works with York City K-8 school McKinley on Generations of Hope — a peer mentoring program in which students visit campus, which many of them have not seen even though they live about three blocks away.  

The main campus is now on the cusp of the city and the suburbs, and the college has not always done as good of a job in welcoming residents to that campus in the past, DelliCarpini said.

Students can also earn up to $750 funded from the YWCA toward college, based on the number of hours they put toward development, education and community service.

"He seems to have a method that really works with these students," DelliCarpini said.

You could walk into William Penn's auditorium or any auditorium with the greatest program, Smith said, but students are not going to respond unless it's presented as if it's for them.

"It’s relationships," he said. "Relationships (are) the key."

About 200 students over the past 12 years under Smith's direction have gone to college — a near 100% success rate, he said. 

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The free program has served students primarily from York City School District, but it also serves schools such as York Adams Academy, York County School of Technology and Logos Academy.

Having a program serve the city's youth aligns with the purpose of the community engagement center — now in its third year — DelliCarpini said, as it was primary donor Louis J. Appell Jr.'s wishes to have it serve the community.

"I know they can be anything they want to be, so it’s that culture that we pretty much pour into them," Smith said.

The Quantum program lost its certification from Blueprints for Youth Development — which evaluates the effectiveness of intervention programs — years ago because of inconsistencies in locations across the country, Smith said. 

But the York County administration of the program has maintained a solid success rate for sending students to college.

An expanded version of the program, called the Eisenhower Quantum Opportunities Program — administered by the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation — continues to work with students throughout college.

That program is certified, and Smith is looking into offering it through the YWCA next year.

In the future, he hopes to double Quantum's capacity to 100 students and also hopes to connect with the college's Kinsley Engineering Center to offer more career path opportunities.

Right now, at least 15 students are set to graduate from the Quantum program with an average GPA of 3.5.

"They’re gonna knock it out of the park this year," he said.

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