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Alleluia Story: Pathways to College

Saul at Amherst College graduation. PHOTO COURTESY PATHWAYS TO COLLEGE
Bruce Parker

Active in Newark since 1991, Pathways to College is a national organization providing underserved students with the support they need to become the best high school students, college applicants, and college students they can be.

Saul Grullon is a Pathways to College Scholar who graduated in 2008 from Newark’s Barringer High School. Brought to the U.S. as an infant, Saul has been in immigration limbo for most of his life because his parents never applied for residency for him. The situation worsened when, at 16, Saul was placed in foster care.

During high school, Saul faithfully attended Pathways sessions; as a senior, Saul was elected to serve as president of the Barringer program. Awards and scholarships came along but because of his illegal status, Saul was unable to take advantage of them. Then in 2008, a month before graduation, Saul turned 18 and could no longer access foster care. He was homeless.

Unable to attend college or legally work because of his status, Saul spent many months in homeless shelters or with friends. During this difficult time, he still studied in the library, hoping that he would somehow achieve his dreams and graduate from college - yet giving of his time to work with the Pathways Scholars and help other participants stay focused on their goals.

Though Saul remained determined to graduate from college, after several months, he had no alternative but to return to a homeless shelter. Learning of his desperate situation, Pathways worked to mobilize friends and colleagues to help with new clothes and a room at Newark’s YMCA and to provide Saul with constant encouragement. After a Pathways tour of northeast colleges, Saul’s primary focus became winning admission to Amherst College. Greatly impressed at his interview, the Amherst admissions staff said if he could find a way to spend a year at a community college and maintain a 3.5 GPA, the College would seriously consider a transfer.

Saul applied to Essex County College in Newark and was accepted into its honors program, which provided full tuition. Graduating with honors in 2012 he was subsequently accepted by Amherst as a transfer student. With the College’s assistance, his U.S. residency was approved in 2013. In 2014, Saul graduated from Amherst, cum laude and with Departmental Distinction.

After graduation, Saul relocated to Princeton, New Jersey, where he found work as a laboratory assistant at the University. His goals are to continue his education and to become an educator at the college level and an activist on behalf of the homeless.

Thanks to Pathways to College and those who believed in him, against incredible odds this deserving young man is well on his way to realizing his dreams.