From Highland Park to MIT!

Posted by on Feb 3, 2012 in Stories | 3 comments

Last year we shared the news that one of our formerly homeless students, Connor Dorothy, was accepted into MIT’s class of 2015 with a full scholarship.

The 16 year old Eagle Rock High School student was admitted to MIT where he plans to study engineering or biomedical engineering. He was the first student in 20 years from Eagle Rock High School to be admitted to MIT, and one of only two students from Eagle Rock High School to receive early decision admittance last year. Connor was a National Merit Scholar finalist, and ranked within the top three students for all of LAUSD.  Additionally he worked as a school tutor and private tutor to help support his family (brother & mom) while he was in high school.

Connor Dorothy is congratulated by Hathaway-Sycamores’ President & CEO Bill Martone

Connor utilized Hathaway-Sycamores’ Family Resource Centers’ Learning Lab for six years. Under the direction of Simon Gee, the Learning Lab serves at risk youth in the Northeast Los Angeles area by providing a safe place to study after school. The children and youth use the lab space and computers to complete homework and print homework assignments. The youth also receive tutoring individually and in small groups. This center is open to students from 7 to 18 years old, Monday through Thursday from 3pm to 9pm, and Saturdays from 8am to 12pm.  19 local public schools refer students to the center, and it is the only free resource of this type in the Highland Park community. Every day about 30 students show up for open lab and tutoring.  The learning center serves about 250 students a year, and there is typically a waiting list of about 500 students to use this center.  The center has been able to offer summer programs in SAT prep, pre algebra and biology prep due to volunteers from the community, and when funding is available, the center is able to expand its tutoring services. The center has data that shows an improvement of one or more letter grades with the students they work with on a continual basis.

When MIT’s Dean of Admissions asked Connor to name a teacher who had been especially influential in his life, Connor named Simon Gee.

Last spring Hathaway-Sycamores Board Members were so inspired by Connor’s story they created a special fund to pay for additional expenses (travel expenses, clothing, computer, etc.) not covered by his scholarship.

Just last month Hathaway-Sycamores Board Members received a letter from Connor with an update on his life at MIT so far.

Connor’s Letter

January 13, 2012

Dear Board of Directors,

MIT is the closest thing to my home now. The time I’ve spent here has been the most stable period of my entire life.

I was homeless when I submitted my MIT application on my boss’s computer, and my family was living in my aunt’s garage when I got accepted. I had to explain to my mom where Massachusetts was, and she was sad that I had to go so far away. But she didn’t need me to explain the full ride part. She understood that I had the opportunity to get out of the generational poverty that surrounded us, something she was never able to do. 

I’ve met extraordinary people, took my first ever physics class, failed my first physics test, explored Boston, gotten lost in Boston, fallen into the Charles River, ran barefoot through the Infinite Corridor, ran barefoot through the snow, created a flamethrowing jack-o-lantern, read more books, and hopefully gotten smarter.

Next semester I plan on taking 6.01 (Introduction to Computer Science and Electrical Engineering), 8.03 (Vibrations and Waves), 18.03 (Differential Equations), 11.011(Introduction to the Art and Science of Negotiation), and 3.091 (Introduction to Solid State Chemistry). Right now I’m taking 8.20 (Special Relativity), and I’m teaching myself 8.02 (Electricity and Magnetism).

I just want you to know that because of your support, you’ve been able to completely change a life.


Connor Dorothy  

Connor just got his report card, one B+ and all the rest As. Way to go Connor! Kudos to Simon Gee for his unwavering dedication and support of the youth who come to the Learning Lab and to Hathaway-Sycamores’ Board Members who lead and support our agency to help people change their lives for the better on a daily basis.



Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Blanca Espinoza

    Insperational story. I have always admired the wonderful work of hathaway Sycamore. Your dedication in helping children and families is extraodinary. The professionalizim, behond compare.

    Wonderful Story,
    Blanca Espinoza

  2. Renee LaBran

    This is just one of the many success stories that make me so proud to be part of Hathaway – Sycamores! Connor is an exceptional young man, and I know that one day we will hear about his achievements and think about what might NOT have been, had it not been for Simon Gee’s guidance and encouragement.

    Renee LaBran
    Chair of the Board, Hathaway – Sycamores

  3. E. Raab

    It was amazing not only to attend the “shot at a million” fundraiser, but to hear from the kids/teens themselves on their perseverance to succeed under very difficult circumtances and shoot for the stars.

    Kudo’s to this organization and it’s continued success.

    Ervin Raab

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