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Silas Craft Collegians Program helps HCC students find success

Soon after the death of his younger sister in 2008, Joshua Trevino was kicked out of his house and onto the streets of Dallas, with a heavy heart and nowhere to go. The 17-year old's future was filled with uncertainty.

Then came the plane ticket.

"That's when my step brother, Michael, paid for a one-way ticket for me to come up (to Howard County) and it changed my life," Trevino said.

Trevino, who turned 22 in March, has come a long way since then. He is scheduled to graduate from Howard Community College next month, and plans to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he will major in multimedia arts.

Trevino struggled academically when he first came to Maryland. He finished his junior year at Long Reach High School in Columbia with a 1.43 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.

But that all changed the following year when he had a 3.0 GPA as a senior. During that time, he also applied for the Silas Craft Collegians Program at Howard Community College.

"One of my counselors motivated me to (apply)," he said. "From then on, everything came together for me."

Since its conception at HCC in 2000, the Silas Craft Collegians Program has helped 265 students such as Trevino find success.

"The program serves students with potential, but whose potential has not always been reflected in their high school transcript," said Dr. Pamela Cornell, the director of the program and professor of psychology and human development at HCC.

The academic enrichment program provides students with customized classes, tutoring and mentoring, and career development training.

"This is a whole learning community," Cornell said. "Which is really like a college within a college."

Cornell has been with the program since it began and has seen many success stories.

"We are with students from the time they are admitted to the program all the way through graduation," she said. "We've seen a lot of academic growth, a lot of personal growth, emotional growth, and professional growth."

The program was created in honor of Silas E. Craft Sr., who came to Howard County with his wife in 1944 and for seven years served as the principal of Harriet Tubman High School, the county's first secondary learning institution for blacks. His wife, Dorothye M. Craft, 89, believes that her husband, who died of cancer in 1995, would be proud of the program.

"Silas was an educator. He believed in providing the best education he could for the students," she said.

Craft is very involved with the students in the program, supporting them by sending cards and letters with words of encouragement and motivation.

"It is important for them to know that the world is not giving you anything," she said. "You have to work for what you get."

The program held its annual fundraising event last month at Hunan Manor. The Columbia restaurant closed for an evening and provided the food and staff. More than 400 people, including community members, politicians and current and former Silas Craft Collegians and staff, attended. More than $20,000 was raised for student scholarships, Cornell said.

David Madon, 29, attends the fundraiser every year to show his appreciation for the program that helped him get to where he is today.

"I gained the leadership skills necessary to go on to have my current job in the government," Madon said.

Madon left high school with a 1.9 GPA. He worked with Cornell and the staff members of the Silas Craft Collegians Program and graduated HCC in 2004. He went on to receive a bachelors degree in public relations and a masters in Human Resources, both from Towson University. He is now a human resources specialist with the Social Sercurity Administration.

"I never thought that I would go on to get my master's (degree) until I was doing really well in the program," Madon said. "I thought I had potential and I just had to work at it."

A current theme among graduates of the Silas Craft program is their desire give back. Madon shares his success story every year and mentors students. Trevino is also very dedicated to inspiring young people the way he was inspired by his counselors and mentors.

"I want to be able to mentor kids who are younger than me to be able to overcome struggles that they come through in their life," Trevino said.

The Silas Craft Collegians Program is a hopeful reminder to students that despite the mishaps or shortcomings in their past, they have the potential to be successful.

"We groom the students to have professional qualities so once they transfer from us and go on to a four-year college or university, they are already established about who they are and what they are capable of doing or becoming," Cornell said.

"As Silas used to say," Craft said in her address to the audience at the March fundraiser, " 'use your head for something other than a hat rack.' "

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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