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'One Goal' Program Helping At-Risk Students On Path To College

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago non-profit aimed at helping at-risk students get into and graduate college is proving to be a success.

"One Goal" is aimed at students with a 2.7 GPA or lower, and after eight years working with students at the Chicago Public Schools, it appears to be working.

"I was actually not sure what I was going to do, not planning to go in college. I was actually thinking of like a supermarket; just to pay my bills, and my phone, and my car," said Jorge Flores, who started the program three years ago.

Now, Flores said he wants to be a psychiatrist, and he said his drastic turnaround was solely due to his work with the One Goal program.

"I did not like to be in school. I would just draw and not pay attention. I would not do homework, most of it, and I would leave school sometimes," he said.

One Goal is a three-year in-school training program offered to select students with a 2.7 GPA or lower in their sophomore year. Students have to write an essay to get into the program.

Executive director Sarah Berghorst said junior year of high school through the end of freshman year of college is make-or-break time for success stories.

"Looking at the data, those three years are the years that we lose most students as a country in the transition," she said.

Berghorst said, starting in their first year of the program, One Goal students focus their mindset on college.

"Why they want college, their sense of belonging, their sense of self advocacy," she said.

While working to boost their GPA and standardized test scores so they are more competitive when applying for college, in their second year with One Goal, students focus on college applications and financial aid.

In year three, they stay in contact with One Goal instructors while starting college. The program checks in on their academic standing, financial aid, and social life.

For Flores, now a sophomore majoring in psychology at National Louis University, One Goal was the only goal he needed.

"One Goal is not like a group, it's more like a family. You meet people. Your teacher becomes like a mom, and your friends become like brothers and sisters," he said. "I would not believe I would be standing here in college. I think I would've been somewhere else; like in the street, or you never know."

One Goal is mostly funded through private donations. The program currently serves approximately 5,000 students at 80 open-enrollment schools in Chicago.

For more information on the program, click here.

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