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New program at Sulzbacher Center gives homeless student fresh start at University of North Florida

4:50 PM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Sulzbacher Center has a new program called In-Sight. It's the brain child of an accountant there, who wanted to help young people get out of the homeless shelter and into dorm rooms.

Nearly a year after getting things going, they now have four students who are college-bound and one who had his first day of classes today. Gerald Dominguez just celebrated his 21st birthday a few days ago, and said going to college is the greatest gift he could have ever received.

Dominguez said life lead him on a frightening path before finally being able to step foot onto a college campus. On his own at the age of 18, he found himself living with a family friend. And following an ugly disagreement, Dominguez ended up at the Sulzbacher Center. Surrounded by strangers in a homeless men's shelter, he said he hit rock bottom.

"I didn't feel comfortable," said Dominguez. "Homophobic remarks in particular. It would go through the men's dorm. It was like 119 people against 1."

Dominguez said he was determined to find a way out. And with the help of these two accountants at the Sulzbacher Center, he did.
About a year ago, Joshua Stancliff and Cedric Lewis got the ball rolling on a brand new project at the center called In-Sight.

"We weren't just pitching an idea of kids to go to college, said Stancliff. "We were getting them into college."

Stancliff said he's sort of like a parent making sure his "kids" at the homeless shelter get financial aid for school. But it doesn't stop there.

Dominguez, who is now the first the person to make it through the In-Sight program and into college, barely has to pay for a thing. His dorm, food and books are all taken care of. 

Lewis, who also teaches at UNF, said he believes in Dominguez, and wants to make sure he fulfills his dream of becoming a motivational speaker.

"He really is a smart kid," said Lewis. "He really did have a bright future. He just needed some guidance getting there."

"They're the big reason why I can not say I'm alone," said Dominguez.

According to the Florida Department of Equal Opportunity, with a high school diploma, the average annual income rate for 2011 was $25,957.

With a bachelors degree, it's much higher at $62,441. And that number jumps to $83,031 with a graduate degree.

First Coast News