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James Doss-Gollin certainly could have taken different paths. He could have gone to a private high school. With his smarts and his ease of being, he could have pursued a major that ensured wealth beyond measure.
But Doss-Gollin, who grew up a half-block from Wilbur Cross High, marches to the beat of a different drummer. He didn’t feel that private school offered “the real world” and he felt that Cross offered endless opportunities.
And he took advantage of many of them. From the advanced placement courses to playing soccer to service options, Doss-Gollin carved out a background that led him to Yale University with some help from New Haven Promise as a member of its first cohort.
He immediately paid it forward, establishing New Haven REACH with Cross classmate and NHP scholar Jordy Padilla. The goal of Reach is to help students, most of whom are first-generation college aspirants, find their voice on their college essays.
The foundation of REACH, according to Doss-Gollin, was to ensure that “no student from New Haven will be turned away from college just because he or she didn’t have the basic information and support needed.”
But his service has not been limited to New Haven or even the U.S.
A mechanical engineering major, Doss-Gollin applied to use his talents with Engineers Without Borders. He worked on water delivery initiatives in Paraguay and Cameroon in the last year and will move to Manchester, N.H., to work in the field of water purification with the Dean Kamen-founded DEKA Research this summer.
But no matter his travels, his heart is always in the Elm City. “New Haven is my home. I love New Haven,” he says. “There’s always stuff going on, yet it’s small enough to know the City. I have friends in every neighborhood here.”
That’s why he is focused on the REACH organization, which has partnered with New Haven Promise on college-readiness initiatives and received its first grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. “Promise is not only about money,” he said. “It motivates those who haven’t thought about college.”
Doss-Gollin recalled some personal stories of friends who simply never considered that they could go to college. Because of that, he felt that many students had been under the belief that there was no difference between a report full of As and one filled with Cs.
To bolster that, he thinks that New Haven should focus on smaller class sizes for younger students. “We need to teach kids to learn how to learn,” he says. “Studies show that test scores of third-graders correlate to their high school results. Addressing that isn’t politically expedient. It takes a long time to pay off.”
But Doss-Gollin is in for the long haul in New Haven.