PHILADELPHIA, PA — As Hanifa Savage steps into the next phase of her academic journey at Temple University, she embodies the essence of determination. Her drive and a $5,000 OnTrack scholarship will make her transition to higher education more attainable. The eldest in a single-parent, low-income Philadelphia household, Savage recounts the trying times. At the age of eleven, she became her family’s sole breadwinner. Amid overwhelming challenges, her grandmother’s unwavering support transformed her path. “She taught me right from wrong, the do’s and don’ts of the world, and how to thrive as an African American woman in today’s society,” says Savage.
Morriah Piñon’s experience echoes a similar testament to the power of mentorship. The Texas native is attending the University of Texas-San Antonio armed with a $10,000 OnTrack scholarship. Since her freshman year, Piñon has flourished under the guidance of an academic advisor with the TSTC Upward Bound Program. This support not only bolstered Piñon’s academic prowess but also ignited her passion in music, leading her to accolades in school band competitions and nurturing her aspirations as a jazz pianist. Beyond these achievements, Piñon’s ambition is rooted in service and inspired by the mentorship she received from educators and the Upward Bound Program. Piñon’s hopes to open her own pharmacy clinic one day as a way to pay forward the guidance and support she received.
Piñon and Savage are among 17 remarkable students who won scholarships by OnTrack this year. The high school navigation and college readiness platform consists of nearly 200 video modules guiding students through social-emotional learning, financial literacy, the college application process, how to fill out the FAFSA, and much more. OnTrack awards $55,000 in scholarships each year to deserving students who complete OnTrack’s curriculum. Since 2018, more than 80 students across the nation have been awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships.
OnTrack’s core essence is more than monetary support—it’s beautifully captured in the narratives of the students it champions. Alexandria Fairley is attending Southern Georgia University and highlights the profound impact of mentorship in her life. She defines it as “leading by example and providing guidance in areas in someone’s life.” Fairley’s sources of inspiration and guidance are her mother and grandfather, who ingrained in her the values of diligence, leadership, and tenacity. Their mentorship empowered her to assume leadership positions, from captaining her school’s track club to serving as Vice President of a young woman’s organization called the Pearls of Perfection. Fairley was awarded a $1,000 OnTrack scholarship.
As Luis A. Reyes begins his journey at Worcester Polytech Institute with a $1,000 OnTrack scholarship, he identifies mentors as those who “help me attain my greatest potential by providing advice, moral support, and encouragement.”
As OnTrack continues its journey of facilitating mentorships, it is evolving to embrace innovative techniques that will further its impact across the nation. Soon, participants will be introduced to a gamified system, enhancing the learning experience through badging, rewards, and even the chance to access college credit courses at no cost. But that’s not all; there will be added scholarship opportunities, expanding the horizon of possibilities for students involved. The vision and continued growth of OnTrack are fueled by the philanthropy of the late Dr. Richard E. Caruso and The Uncommon Individual Foundation (UIF) he founded in 1986. According to UIF Managing Director, Joseph M. Lopez, “Dr. Caruso carved out an impressive journey as a successful entrepreneur and credited his success to the mentors who guided him down a path at various points in his life.” Recognizing the profound influence of these guiding figures, Dr. Caruso established the UIF. His intention? Not just to allow serendipity to dictate the occurrence of mentoring relationships, but to ensure they were cultivated in a structured, meaningful way.
In Hanifa Savage, the vision of Dr. Caruso and the mission of OnTrack finds a kindred spirit. Savage’s determination, resilience, and aspirations mirror the very essence of what OnTrack seeks to cultivate in young individuals across the country. Inspired by her grandmother’s teachings of remembering one’s roots and uplifting others, Savage aspires to study Rehabilitation and Human Services to help her Philadelphia community. This ambition, alongside her academic pursuits, exemplifies the transformative power of mentorship and support systems. In aiming to redefine the boundaries of her circumstances, she stands as a testament to the difference OnTrack can make. Through her story and countless others, the legacy of mentorship, empowerment, and innovation continues to shine brightly.