Alumna named Purpose Prize Fellow

Civic Ventures recently honored Virginia “Ginny” Donohue of Syracuse, executive director and founder of On Point for College, as a 2010 Purpose Prize Fellow.

Ginny Donohue Purpose Prizes honor Americans over age 60 for making an extraordinary impact in their encore careers.

Donohue is a social entrepreneur who, in her encore career, is using her experience and passion to make an extraordinary impact on one of our urban area’s biggest challenges – ensuring that inner-city youth have the opportunity to enroll in and succeed at college. In recognition of her work, Hewlett-Packard has donated a laptop computer.

“I am grateful to The Purpose Prize for this honor,” said Donohue, a 1988 graduate of SUNY Oswego. “On Point for College has never turned away a single student.

“I never knew what tenacity meant, what courage meant or what loyalty meant until I met our students,” she said. “The On Point family is here for the duration. If we can make the road easier for these amazing young adults, it is an honor.”

In July 2009, SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley honored Donohue for her work with On Point for College by awarding her a Presidential Medal, calling her an “inspirational activist.”

Donohue was named a Purpose Prize Fellow based on her founding On Point for College, which has enrolled 2,723 inner-city youth in more than 200 colleges and universities.

In April 1999, after eight years of helping students from a local homeless shelter to enroll in college, she left the corporate world and her position as chief financial officer in order to launch On Point for College out of the trunk of her car.

She has carted college brochures throughout the inner-city neighborhoods of Syracuse, met with youth who never thought that attending college was possible, took students on college visits and visited them at college after they enrolled to make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.

Today, On Point for College is recognized nationally as a pioneer organization in college retention and has helped other college access organizations look beyond college enrollment to ensure our country’s most vulnerable youth succeed and then cross the college stage to graduate. Last May, On Point for College staff attended 32 separate college graduations.

On Point for College has expanded to 13 staff members and 160 mentors and volunteers, and has enrolled 2,723 teens from inner-city Syracuse in more than 200 colleges and universities. The not-for-profit boasts more than 350 college graduates in addition to several young people who have obtained or are pursuing post-baccalaureate degrees.

Ninety-eight percent of the participants were the first in their families to attend college. Twenty percent have no parent in the picture.

For these students On Point is a backup family. Assistance includes glasses, coats, summer housing for the homeless students and even dental care.

On Point for College assists in any way possible to help youth through the challenges of entering and staying in college. The program provides one-on-one counseling and helps with applications and money for bedding and college supplies. The staff and mentors bring students on college visits and also make counselor visits every semester at New York state colleges.

In addition, On Point for College provides transportation to and from colleges during college vacations, and helps students with the transition to the workplace. With the help of its mentors, On Point for College made over 564 trips to higher education institutions last year.

“Purpose Prize Fellows show what’s possible in our communities—and the world—when experienced adults apply their passion and skill to improve the lives of others.” said Alexandra Céspedes Kent, director of The Purpose Prize. “Imagine the potential for society if tens of thousands of adults focused their know-how on the social causes they are most passionate about – it’s a tremendous opportunity.”

The 46 Purpose Prize Fellows of 2010 were honored at the Purpose Prize Summit Nov.12 to 14 in Philadelphia. Approximately 400 attendees at the invitation-only event heard from featured speakers such as W. Wilson Goode Sr. (former mayor of Philadelphia and 2006 Prize winner); writer and cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson (author of “Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom”); civil rights leader and social innovator Robert Moses (founder of The Algebra Project); and bestselling author Martin Seligman (founder of the field of positive psychology).

In addition to a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Oswego, Donohue has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Le Moyne College, and a master’s degree in urban teacher education from Syracuse University.

She has received awards such as the 2004 Post Standard Achievement Award, 2005 Syracuse University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung Hero Award, 2008 NCAN Excellence in Leadership Award and Ben and Jerry’s Citizen Cool Award. Under her leadership, On Point for College was selected as the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce’s 2008 Non-Profit of the Year.

The Purpose Prize, funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies and the John Templeton Foundation, is a program of Civic Ventures’ Encore Careers campaign, which aims to engage millions of baby boomers in encore careers combining social impact, personal meaning and continued income in the second half of life.


PHOTO CAPTION: On point—Alumna Virginia “Ginny” Donohue of Syracuse, at right, executive director and founder of On Point for College, was honored as a 2010 Purpose Prize Fellow.

(Posted: Dec 03, 2010)

Tags: alumni