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Boston HERC

Program Description

The Boston Higher Education Resource Center (HERC) enables at-risk Latino, African-American and other disadvantaged youth, to gain access to a higher education, break the cycle of poverty and become leaders in the community. Working within some of the Boston's lowest-income and under-served communities, HERC has become a key provider of educational and college preparatory out-of-school programming including through out of school time programming: SAT classes, tutoring and mentoring, college tours, community service, parent and community outreach and education, and college and financial aid application assistance. The Boston HERC Passport to College Program, in particular, offers comprehensive college preparatory programming (including tutoring, financial aid advice and college tours), resulting in a near perfect track record of first-generation Latino and other disadvantaged youth going to, and graduating from, college. Since its founding in 1999, the Boston HERC has enabled over 1,300 at risk youth from throughout Greater Boston to achieve a higher education. The Boston HERC has grown from an organization providing services to a little over 100 youth and their families in 1999, to serving more than 1,000 on an annual basis today.

The Boston HERC serves 1,000 youth and their families per year from neighborhoods throughout Boston, but primarily from Roxbury and Dorchester, including the Roxbury/Dorchester "Circle of Promise" region. Housing Authority sites served include Bromley Park, Faneuil, Martin Luther King, Jr., Orchard Gardens, Torre Unidad, West Newton St., and Whittier St. Other public housing developments include Grant Manor, Parmelee Courts, and Villa Victoria. HERC serves predominantly Latino and African American youth between 7th and 12th grade (middle school students are served only through our mentoring program); 90% of our youth are low income and/or the first in their families to go to college. 100% of Passport graduates go on to college while almost 90% graduate from college within five years of enrollment.

In terms of outreach, Passport students are largely recruited from area schools for participation in this comprehensive two-year college preparatory initiative, supporting at-risk, low to moderate-income high school juniors and seniors, many of whom are the first-generation of their families going to college . In terms of admissions criteria and process, students must have a minimum 2.0 grade point average, want to go to college, intend to take the SAT, be first-generation college bound and/or are low-to moderate-income, have successfully completed Algebra 1, one science and two English courses, register for at least one lab science, foreign language, and social studies class in their junior year, and sign a contract with the Boston HERC and their parent(s) and/or guardian(s) pledging to fulfill program expectations and complete the program . Program activities consist of providing academic enrichment, leadership development, individual counseling, and a specialized curriculum; Passport helps up to 40 at-risk youth annually develop the skills, motivation, and determination necessary to gain admission to and successfully complete college or other post-secondary education. If a student is not accepted into the Passport program after applying, they are placed on a waiting list for a designated amount of time. Students are selected on a first come, first serve basis given they meet all the required qualifications above. All Passport students receive a mentor if they do not have one upon entering the program.

The Boston HERC Passport Program is one of the few (if not the only) college access programs in Boston hosting a binary Community-Based and School-Based model. Whether a student is participating in Passport as part of the Community-Based model (at the HERC center), or as part of the School-Based (at the school), each student receives no less than 1.5 hours to 2 hours of instruction each week in a classroom setting (in the case of the Community-Based model, a cohort of up to 20 students gathered from schools from throughout Greater Boston meet with their cohort once per week; in the case of the School-Based Passport Program, each junior receives 45 minutes of the Passport curriculum once to twice a week during their weekly advisories). In addition, each student receives out-of-class individual counseling (in the community-based setting counseling is provided by the Passport Program Director; in the school-based setting it is provided by Passport counselors). In either setting, the Passport curriculum offers comprehensive college preparatory programming including tutoring, financial aid assistance, and college tours.

Services Provided

  • Academic enrichment/tutoring/study skills
  • Arts and cultural
  • Career exploration and counseling/internships
  • College admissions guidance and counseling
  • College fairs/campus visits
  • College transition and retention support
  • Community service/service hours
  • Financial aid advising/FAFSA completion
  • Leadership development
  • Mentoring
  • Parent/family services
  • SAT/ACT and other test preparation
  • Scholarships and last-dollar grants


Race & Ethnicity

  • Asian or Pacific Islander: 2%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 41%
  • Other: 31%
  • African American: 26%

Education Level and
Number of Students

  • High School: 150
  • Middle School: 0
  • Elementary School: 0
  • Post-secondary: 100
  • Non-traditional: 0

Populations Served

  • Academically At-risk
  • Academically High-performing
  • Undocumented Students (20)


  • More than 75%

Colleges Attended
by Alumni

  • Bennington College
  • Bentley University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Bridgewater State University
  • Bunker Hill Community College
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Columbia University in the City of New York
  • Eastern Nazarene College
  • Fitchburg State University
  • Gordon College - Massachusetts
  • Hamilton College
  • Hampshire College
  • Holyoke Community College
  • Johnson & Wales University
  • Johnson C Smith University
  • Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts
  • Middlesex Community College
  • Northeastern University
  • Nyack College
  • Providence College
  • Regis University
  • Roxbury Community College
  • Savannah State University
  • Smith College
  • Stonehill College
  • Suffolk University
  • Trinity College
  • University of Massachusetts-Boston
  • University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
  • University of Massachusetts-Lowell
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Matriculation & Completion

  • 4-yr College Matriculation: 100%
  • 4-yr College Graduation: 86%