michele Pats

Bottom Line volunteer Michele Scavongelli receives “Patriots Difference Maker of the Week” award.

Bottom Line Massachusetts,  is celebrating education volunteerism with the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

The Patriots are honoring Bottom Line volunteer Michele Scavongelli as their “Patriots Difference Maker of the Week.” She was recognized at a Julie’s Family Learning Program event on October 1.

For the week of Sept. 28, the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation is working in cooperation with Bottom Line Massachusetts, Boston Partners in Education, and Science Club for Girls to highlight dedicated volunteers and promote the importance of their efforts. The overarching theme of the week is empowerment through education.

Education volunteers are an important driver in helping end the cycle of poverty. First-generation students have less support than their higher-income peers to get into and through college. The Patriots and Bottom Line know that the more support children receive from the start, the better chance they have at reaching the end zone – college graduation.

Bottom Line this year celebrated the college graduation of its 1,000th student, and improved the overall graduation rate of Bottom Line students to 78 percent, well above the national average.

In addition to volunteering with Bottom Line, including serving on its Board of Directors, Michele is a mother of seven, an attorney and child-empowered legal advocate. Michele has raised over $50,000 as part of the Bottom Line Boston Marathon team – funds that ensure that first-generation, low-income students from the City of Boston have an opportunity to go to college. In fact, one in four college-bound seniors from the City of Boston receive support from Bottom Line during the college application process, throughout college or both.

She is a firm believer that her volunteerism is helping disadvantaged students realize the dream of earning a college degree.

“I am deeply committed to education and equality, and believe that education can help disadvantaged students transform their lives, achieve great things, and help lift them and future generations out of poverty,” Michele said.

Michele has also mentored countless Bottom Line students by helping with resume building, conducting mock interviews and participating in student roundtable discussions. She is selfless with her time and talents, and has also given pro-bono legal service to Bottom Line.

She also volunteers her time to the Youth Advocacy Foundation, and specifically The Education/Law Project, also known as Ed Law Project, working to ensure that Massachusetts’ highest risk children stay in school.

Throughout the football season, the Celebrate Volunteerism initiative will share the stories of dedicated volunteers, build awareness, and identify and educate others about volunteer opportunities.

Written by Elevate Communications

Since the start of the school year, our Success Counselors have traveled to 20 campuses across Massachusetts to meet one-on-one with nearly 2,000 college Bottom Line college students. In meeting with students, counselors discuss everything from adjusting to a new roommate, to reading a syllabus, to resolving any lingering financial aid issues.

Erin O’Donnell, a first-year Success Counselor, reflects on a busy month of the school year.

photoWhich colleges do you work with?

Suffolk, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth

What types of meetings have you been having on campus?

So far, meetings have focused on getting to know my first year students better and making sure they are adjusting well to a new environment, a new way of learning, and a new more independent lifestyle. With my first year students, meetings are often centered on connecting them to resources on campus, discussing organization tips and academic goals, as well as resolving outstanding bill issues and any other concerns they have. Meetings with second years cover a broad range of topics, including guidance in choosing a major, help with resumes and internship applications, assisting students with self-advocacy whether it is to reinstate scholarships, financial aid verification work for students who have yet to receive an award, transfer advising, and mapping out the rest of their undergraduate career in order to meet requirements to graduate On time.

Why do you think it is important to meet with in person and on campus?

Meeting on campus is a great way to experience a part of our students’ academic environments. The advice we give is all the more pertinent if it can be based on a personal, trusting relationship that develops over time, rather than a voice over the phone or email exchange.  In addition, being on campus makes it as simple as possible for students to meet with us without inconveniencing them with a commute, as many of our students are working a lot in addition being full-time undergrads, or currently live on campus a ways from Boston (in the case of UMass Dartmouth).

What do you like most about being a Success Counselor?

The best part about being a Success Counselor is that you get to connect with a diverse group of young adults who are striving to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.  Many have inspiring stories, many grew up in a different country, and many are still learning English. To be able to assist these students with realizing their dream of graduating from college, and being the first to do so in their family, is a huge privilege.




Bottom Line students at The Hanover Insurance Group campus

Bottom Line hosted its annual Success Send-Offs in Worcester and Boston earlier this month. More than 300 students attended these events to celebrate the start of their college careers with Bottom Line.

In Worcester, students gathered at The Hanover Insurance Group campus where Vice President and COO of Business Insurance, Gayle Falvey addressed the group and acknowledged their tremendous accomplishment.

In Boston, students gathered at the Hill Holliday office in downtown Boston. The event kicked off with an address from Ruthanne Russell, a Salem State University alumna and Chief Human Resources Officer of Hill Holliday. Students also received encouraging words from Landon Dickey, Education Advisor to Mayor Walsh.

Students at both Send-Offs mingled and networked with their peers and Bottom Line college counselors, and discussed the anticipation of their freshman year, as they chanted their colleges’ and universities’ cheers. Both evenings ended with a video address from Senator Elizabeth Warren. She encouraged and congratulated Bottom Life staff, counselors and students.


Bottom Line Success Counselors at Worcester’s Success Send-Off. (Photo Credit Amanda Luisa Goodale)

Students at the Success Send-Off will be attending one of Bottom Line’s twenty target colleges in the fall, they will continue to receive Bottom Line support, for up to six years or until they graduate through Bottom Line’s College Success Program. With Bottom Line support these students are about twice as likely to graduate than their low-income peers. Eighty-four percent of Bottom Line’s most recent college class graduated within six years, more than double the graduation rate for low-income students nationwide.



This year, Bottom Line-New York placed 50 of our college students in summer internships at a variety of corporate and non-profit partners. Internships provide a unique opportunity for our students to develop professional skills and build their professional networks. All of the internships were paid or subsidized by generous funders. We’re so grateful to each of the companies and organizations that made this possible, including: BRIC, Children’s Law Center, Citizen Schools, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Community Voices Heard, Hot Bread Kitchen, iMentor, The Innocence Project, The Jed Foundation, The Jewish Museum, JUMA Ventures, Methodist Hospital, New Teacher Center, Partnership for After School Education (PASE), People.Co, Safe Horizon, Sapient, Start Elevator, and Viacom.

Below, Kassandra Rosales, a rising third-year student at SUNY Albany, explains what she did this summer and what she learned from her time at Sapient, one of Bottom Line’s corporate partners.

Kassandra 1

Kassandra Rosales interned at Sapient, one of Bottom Line’s corporate partners.

Name:  Kassandra Rosales

College: SUNY Albany

College Year: Third

Tell us about Sapient and what you worked on there this summer:

Sapient is a consulting firm that works with other companies like tech companies, retail companies, car companies, banks, etc. They help them develop strategies in order to improve their company’s performance – now or 5 years from now.

For my first project, I worked on the finance team. I was inputting data from media plans, contracts and invoices into “wrap-up sheets” for Sapient’s clients. This allowed Sapient to keep track of how much they were paid and how much they spent for each client. If Sapient used less than the amount in the contract, the company could decide if they wanted that balance back or to use it for another project.

For my second project, I worked in the talent department. I used their talent databases to input information about each candidate and feedback from any interviews. I also did research to find recruiting agencies that focused on the specific careers that Sapient was looking to hire for.

What were the 2-3 skills that were most important for your work this summer?

First, I needed communication skills. There were a lot of things that were new to me so I had to communicate with my supervisor if I didn’t understand something or wanted to be sure that I was doing the work correctly. We had meetings every few days to check in on my progress.

Second, I became a lot more familiar with Excel. Most of my work was done on Excel, and I didn’t have a lot of experience with it before this internship.

Third, I needed researching skills. I learned a lot about where to look, the importance of knowing what specifically I’m looking for, and how to pull out key information when doing research.

What was the best part of your time at Sapient? Biggest challenge you faced?

I really enjoyed the finance work and meeting the employees at Sapient. There were all really nice and I loved hearing about how they got to where they are. For instance, maybe they majored in something totally different than what they do at Sapient. I also enjoyed being in a corporate environment because I’ve worked in schools and non-profits before.

My biggest challenge was a specific assignment – the research project. I hadn’t done a lot of research prior to this job and wanted to make sure that I was completing the project correctly. I spoke with Angela, my manager, before I started the work and she helped me break it down and set up a spreadsheet to organize the information that I was finding. Then I would check-in a few times during the project to make sure I was on the right track. Another Bottom Line intern was doing similar work, so I was able to talk to her as well.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would spend more time getting to know people on different teams at Sapient and learn more about what they do. I feel like I didn’t network as much as I wanted to and so I’d do that more next time around.

Any advice for students who are starting to think about internships for next summer?

Definitely do research on the companies that you would like to intern for, talk to peers who might know more about the companies, and practice your communication and Excel skills now. And, when you’re looking into jobs, be open-minded and flexible.

Nearly 100% of Bottom Line high school seniors from Boston and Worcester have been accepted to college and more than two-thirds of these students will be attending one of our Success colleges.

In the interview below, Tommy Suen, a current senior at the John D. O’Bryant High School in Boston, explains how his Bottom Line counselor, Laura, helped him get into college and why he’s looking forward to having Bottom Line’s support once he starts college in the fall.


Tommy and his Bottom Line Counselor, Laura

Name: Tommy Suen
High School: John D. O’Bryant
College Attending: Boston University

Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My older brother was a Bottom Line student, so from the time I was a freshman in high school he kept telling me that I had to sign up for Bottom Line. He would say, “if it weren’t for Bottom Line, I never would have gotten into college,” so I always knew how important it would be to have Bottom Line’s help applying to college. I also knew I wouldn’t have a lot of help navigating the application process at home. My mom really wanted me to go to college, but she had never been through the process before.

Can you describe how your Bottom Line counselor, Laura, supported you this year?

Laura was a huge help! It made a huge difference to be able to have individualized support throughout the application process. For a long time, I thought that I was Laura’s only student. I was shocked to learn that she was actually working with fifty other students like me; she was just always available to help me.

When I first started the college application process I struggled a lot with organization. There are so many things to remember and I was having a particularly hard time writing my college essay. Laura really helped me organize my thoughts and after several drafts I emerged with a college essay I was really proud of. She also helped me analyze my financial aid award letters and helped me choose a school that was both affordable and a good fit. Laura always went above and beyond, she even helped me get the part-time job I have working at Bottom Line’s front desk. I have worked at Bottom Line for a year, and I have noticed that all of the counselors really go above and beyond to help support students.

May 1st was College Decision Day. Where will you be attending college next year? How did you feel when you found out you got into college?

I applied to nine colleges and I was so nervous that I wouldn’t get in anywhere. I was so excited and relieved when I found out that I had been accepted to my first choice, Boston University and it would be affordable for me to go there. It was so rewarding to have all of my hard work from high school pay off in that moment.

That must be a relief! How are you and your family feeling about college now?

I am the youngest in my family and my mom worried a lot about whether or not I would get into college. She was so proud of me when she found out I had been accepted to Boston University that she dropped everything she was doing and took me out to eat in order to celebrate. Both of my brothers went to Boston University, so they are very excited to have the legacy carried on.

Are you excited about staying connected to Bottom Line? What are you looking forward to the most next year?

Yes! I am looking forward to staying connected to Bottom Line and having a counselor visit me on campus. Living away from home for the first time and having to manage my own schedule is going to be a huge transition. I am pretty nervous about balancing everything next year, but it makes me feel better knowing that Bottom Line will continue to be there for me. I am really looking forward to meeting new people on campus and taking classes in business, accounting and finance.

What would you tell a high school student who is just starting the college application process with Bottom Line?

Don’t take your Bottom Line counselor for granted. Listen to your counselor’s advice and be prepared to edit your college essay several times. Oh, also, your Bottom Line counselor works with 49 other students, but you would never know it.


For the third straight year, we are proud to announce that 100% of Bottom Line-New York’s high school students have been accepted to college. The path from college application to acceptance is never easy to navigate, and so our full-time counselors met one-on-one with almost 300 high school seniors this year to help them every step of the way. Below, Azza Awad, a current senior at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, explains how her Bottom Line counselor Deborah helped her throughout the entire process.

Azza and her Bottom Line-New York counselor Deborah after she decided to attend NYU next fall.

Azza and her Bottom Line-New York counselor Deborah announcing that she plans to attend NYU next fall.


Name:  Azza Awad

High School: Clara Barton High School

Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My parents left everything in Sudan to come to the U.S., invest in my education, and give me a better future than we would ever have back in Sudan. I joined Bottom Line because I needed someone who could help me with the college application process. Knowing that it would be the most stressful and difficult time of my high school career, I needed someone to guide me, and there was no one at home who had been through it before.

Can you describe how your Bottom Line counselor Deborah supported you this year?

The first thing Deborah did was to help me zero in on a collection of colleges that fit my personality and academic interests. Then we made sure that I had some reach schools, some colleges that I was likely to get in, and some schools that were a shoe-in on my list. Bottom Line also helped me write not only my main college essay, but all the other supplemental essays for schools that required them.

Deborah also took me step by step through my Private School, CUNY, and SUNY applications, helping me to highlight the best version of myself so that colleges could see why I’m a strong candidate. The opportunity to have not just my Bottom Line counselor, but also other counselors in the office check over my applications made me feel special, like I had a support system that really cared.

When it came time for paying for college, Bottom Line helped me with all the paperwork required for financial aid. It was really confusing! They asked about my parents’ income, tax returns, and other financial documents that I wasn’t aware of. Having someone there to help me through it made all the difference!

Azza speaking at the Bottom Line-New York Spring Reception on May 7, 2014.

Azza speaking at the Bottom Line-New York Spring Reception on May 7, 2014.

May 1st was College Decision Day. Where will you be attending college next year?

This fall, I’m going to NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and will major in Computer Engineering. I’m really excited because I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up. Also, I won’t be paying a dime! I got a full scholarship, thanks to Deborah.

That must be a relief! How are you and your family feeling about college now?

My family feels relieved because this pressure has been lifted. They don’t have to worry about their daughter getting a quality education, and they don’t have to worry about the financial burden that most students have. My father is a taxi driver, and recently whenever he has customers and a conversation comes up, he always tells them how proud he is of me getting into NYU. Getting into NYU Poly, with the help of Bottom Line, is a huge accomplishment for me and my family and will give us all a brighter future.

IMG_4354Applications have been sent, financial aid forms have been scrutinized, and now students are starting to see the benefits of the college application process. As Bottom Line Access students learn where they have been accepted to college, they can easily become overwhelmed by the possibilities. In an effort to help students feel confident about their college decisions, Bottom Line hosts an event called the College Expo which brings both high school Access students and college Success students together.

On March 15th, Bottom Line hosted the Second Annual College Expo at Suffolk Law School. This year, 19 colleges from the organization’s Success program were represented, and 130 Access students were able to get the scoop on their potential colleges. According to John D. O’Bryant High School senior Tommy Suen, learning more about financial aid from other students was most important.

“I’ve gotten financial aid letters, but I wanted a more realistic idea of the cost,” said Suen.

When it came to the reality of college, Salem State University sophomore Chantel Barrett-Pearson said that her perception of school changed once she arrived on campus. Barrett-Pearson participated in the Salem State University summer bridge program, which is an opportunity for selected students to receive academic support before their freshman year. Last year, about 13 percent of Bottom Line freshman participated in a bridge program, which helped lay their foundation for college.

“When I first learned about the bridge program I didn’t want to do it because it was going to take away my summer,” said Barrett-Pearson. “But it was a great opportunity because I got to know other people at the college.”

Mandy Cheng and Christine Chu

Mandy Cheng and Christine Chu at this year’s College Expo

This year’s College Expo was also open to high school students who are interested in joining both the Access and Success programs. Malden high school students Mandy Cheng and Christine Chu have applied to work with Bottom Line and came to the College Expo to gain a better understanding prospective colleges. Chu said that NYU and BU are her first choice schools, but she came to the event to so she could be open to more colleges.

Recalling the beginning stages of her college search, Clark University senior Bernadine Mavhungu said that she remembered that her expectations of college changed greatly.

“I wish I knew it was okay to not know what I was doing,” said Mavhungu. “I thought school was a means to an end. College has far exceeded my expectations, and Clark has helped me figure out what I want.”

By Laura Hedges, Bottom Line Access Counselor

This winter, Bottom Line-New York counselors have already helped over 250 of our high school students submit their financial aid applications. Financial aid can be daunting for any student – there are many steps in the process, with various tax documents and specific forms needed along the way. For perspective on some of the financial aid challenges that one student encountered and the ways that she worked with her Bottom Line counselor to overcome them, read Valeria’s account below.

Jonathan-Valeria#1  Name:  Valeria Inamagua

  High School: Talent Unlimited HS

  Number of Colleges Applied To: 17

  Top Choices: SUNY Stonybrook, Syracuse, and Swarthmore

  Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My mother wanted to help me with college applications, but she cannot because she didn’t go through the process herself and she doesn’t speak English. When I heard about Bottom Line, I immediately wanted to join. In the future, I want to be a role model for my younger sister, both by going to college and by helping her when she starts applying for college.

What was the hardest or most surprising part about the financial aid process so far?

My father doesn’t live with us and so I had to keep reaching out to ask him for information. I didn’t realize that colleges were going to ask for that, but they did and it was challenging. On top of that, I kept getting different requests for different forms from different schools in addition to the FAFSA and CSS.

What’s one way that your BL counselor has helped you with financial aid?

Jonathan went through the details in each application and each form. He didn’t just tell me what to write; he explained what each form meant and why they were asking for this information. I feel like it’s important that students know what they’re filling out. It’s going to pop up in the future and I need to know what to do after this year.

One piece of advice for students currently filling out financial aid:

To have all important documents ready in advance (even the ones that you don’t think they’ll ask for), so that you can input the information all at one time.

Bottom Line Senior Access Manager and “Team Go Far” marathon runner, Michelle Easton talks about preparing for this year’s marathon and why she runs for Bottom Line.


Bottom Line Senior Access Manager Michelle was stopped short of the finish line last year. 

Why are you running for BL?
I got the idea in my head after hearing about the experiences of a few co-workers who ran for Bottom Line back in 2011 and 2012. Once I finished my Master’s degree, I decided that Boston would be my next challenge, even though I was not a regular runner at the time. I committed to running and fundraising for Bottom Line because I believe so strongly in the work that we do, and because I wanted to spread the word about our mission. Though I wasn’t able to finish the 2013 Boston Marathon due to the events that unfolded, I decided the same day that I would be back in 2014.

Do your students know you are running? What do you hope your own perseverance will teach them?
I haven’t spoken about the marathon with my students yet this year, but some of my students from last year knew that I ran. I honestly feel as though being forced to wait another year to cross the finish line has taught me something about the tenacity and persistence of my students. This is the hardest I have ever worked toward a goal, and I will be reaching it a full year after I had originally anticipated. Every year I meet with students who have hit one roadblock or another that has kept them from attending their first choice school, or from attending school at all. This experience will definitely change the way I talk to students about these obstacles when they come up—you can sit around and complain that things are unfair, or you can dust yourself off, make a new plan, and work twice as hard to achieve it. It’s easier said than done, but I have a whole lot more respect for students who have worked their butts off for an extra year to get where they want to be.

What does the Boston Marathon mean to you?
I grew up watching the marathon and I have lived a block from the marathon course in Natick for five years. I’ve seen the way that the community comes together to cheer on runners—not just the elites, but the moms and dads who are out there raising money for charity. Running a marathon, for me and for so many others, is about proving to yourself that you are capable of more than you ever imagined. It is the ultimate test of grit, perseverance, and hope. I imagine that running Boston is one of the big things I will remember about this stage in my life, something I will tell my kids and my grandkids about. I imagine that running the 2014 Boston Marathon is one of the most important and memorable things I will do.

Tell me about training, what has this process taught you about yourself?
You can’t train for a marathon without seeing yourself at your very best, and your very worst. I’ve learned how to take things one step at a time. When I started this crazy journey I hadn’t run more than 5 miles. During training, we added on one mile each week, and somehow my body and my brain learned how to do it. At our 18-miler last year, I realized for the first time that I could imagine making it through the rest of the marathon, and that was an incredible moment. When I talk to people about my training, almost everyone says something to the effect of, “Wow, I could never do that,” and I want to say to them, “You can! You just have to decide to do it, and do it.” It makes me wonder what else I may be capable of that I previously thought was impossible.

What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced over the past few months?
The weather and resulting sidewalk conditions. There is nothing more demoralizing than stepping onto what you think is hard-packed snow and feeling the immediate chill that means your shoe is now full of slush. Especially when you still have 4, 6, 10 miles to go. I also think I am finding it more mentally challenging to train the second time around. There is some value to naiveté and a blank slate in marathon training, and I think I put a lot more pressure on myself to run faster and to feel better at the end of a long run because I’ve done it before.

There is also definitely a fear factor in this year’s marathon. There is definitely some lingering anxiety about what might happen this year. Whether or not we talk about it, I think it’s in the back of all of our minds as we prepare.

What helps keep you motivated during training?
I think about all of the work I have put into my goal of crossing the finish line on Boylston Street for the last two years, and that makes it much more difficult to let myself slack off or skip a day. My teammates also keep me honest and motivated—during the week we all post updates on Facebook, and it’s hard to say, “Boo, it’s too cold to run,” when I can see that two of my teammates already did the run an hour before I got out of bed. When my alarm goes off on Saturdays, I’m not thinking about the fact that I will be cold and sore after running 16 miles in 10 degrees; I’m just looking forward to hanging out with the other Bottom Line runners during the 2+ hours we’ll be out on the course.

What are you most looking forward to about crossing the finish line?
Because I was stopped just short of the line last year, this will be an especially meaningful finish for me. I get emotional every time I think about it. Most of all, though, I can’t wait until the “second” finish line, which will be arriving at the Marathon Coalition after party a few minutes after crossing the line and celebrating the collective victory of all of my teammates. I grew very close with a few of the Bottom Line runners through our training and collective trauma last year, and I know how much this finish will mean to each of them, as well. Bring the tissues.


Click here to learn more about Bottom Line’s 2014 Boston Marathon team or contact Liz Hood at ehood@bottomline.org

This month Bottom Line – MA hosted Go Far Forum events in Boston and Worcester. More than 300 college students and graduates from Boston and 200 local professionals gathered at the Westin Copley Place Hotel to participate in Bottom Line’s sixth annual Go Far Forum on January 9th. Lead event sponsors of the Boston Go Far Forum were Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston Children’s Hospital, iRobot, Liberty Mutual, and Sun Life Financial. In total, 29 companies, nonprofits, and professional associations had exhibitions at the event. The event also featured a keynote speech by George Foreman III, owner of The Club, boxer, and son of former heavyweight champion boxer George Foreman. Mr. Foreman spoke to students about how to stand out professionally and the importance of building your brand.


Boston Go Far Forum Keynote Speaker George Foreman III conducts a mock interview

Bottom Line Worcester hosted their Go Far Forum at the DCU Center on January 7th with more than 100 Worcester college students, graduates, and local professionals in attendance. Hanover Insurance Group, Worcester’s second-largest employer, served as the lead sponsor of the event. Staples and UMass Memorial Healthcare provided supporting sponsorships. In total, 18 companies and nonprofits were in attendance.

Bottom Line students and Hanover Employees

Students speak to Hanover Insurance employees at the Worcester Go Far Forum

Students at both events participated in mock interviews with volunteer professionals, attended roundtable discussions with human resource professionals, listened to job search panels, and met with representatives from companies and professional organizations at a career fair.

“The Go Far Forum has motivated me to continue working hard in school in order to become a successful person in the future. The mock interviews made me feel confident about the skills I have and helped me prioritize the experiences I will need in order to accomplish my goals,” said Bottom Line student Richard Gonzalez.

The Go Far Forum provides students with an exciting opportunity to explore different career paths, gain professional skills and network with experts in their field.


Bottom Line students at the Go Far Forum in Boston

Click here to learn more about Bottom Line – New York’s recent Go Far Forum event.