“One minute I was talking to Dr. Fowler, Executive Director of The Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, about a way to help students prepare for college. Five months later I was standing on a bus with 36 students and a full-time college counselor heading to Mizzou for a leadership program.”

– Lisa Orden Zarin, CEO & Founder

College Bound was founded in 2006 by Lisa Orden Zarin, the daughter of a single mom and school teacher who taught and lived in Newark, New Jersey’s riskiest neighborhoods – neighborhoods where students seldom graduated from high school, much less went onto college. But Lisa’s mother emphasized the importance of education and the message stuck.

Many years later when Lisa’s own son was applying to college, she experienced the college admissions process through the eyes of her child, a student of privilege from John Burroughs School. The process was complex and many people helped. She wondered:  “What are children doing today who come from neighborhoods where I grew up?”

It turned out that fewer than nine percent of low-income students were graduating from college. When she compared that to 75 percent of high-income students who were graduating from college, the gap seemed impossible to bridge.

In eight years, Lisa has built an organization – College Bound – that has students from the poorest backgrounds achieving at the same rate as their peers from all income levels. CB’s success is unparalleled in the St. Louis community.

In 2006, two school districts approved the CB program, and 36 students placed their hopes for a better future in College Bound. The organization has grown to serve a projected 1,700 students (2012-13 school year) and their families through a variety of programs, including full scale implementation to 9th graders in four partner schools, and a comprehensive program that begins in 10th grade and serves students until they graduate from college. College Bound students come from 39 area high schools and are attending 70 colleges and universities nationwide.

The students who first joined College Bound in 2006 began to graduate from college in 2012. Of these students, 60 percent are on track to graduate from college by their mid-20s — the same rate as students from all income levels. A program evaluation conducted in April 2011 through George Washington University found that “78% of CB students cited their involvement in College Bound as influencing their decision to stay in college.”