Antwann Kearse, a graduate of Henninger High School, was harboring a secret when he arrived home on winter break during his first year attending Morrisville State College. His family, beaming with pride, chattered about how well he was doing in college. But Kearse knew better — he had just been put on academic probation.

“I did horribly,” Kearse said. “I looked at school as a vacation. I had too much fun.”

It was right there, surrounded by the people he loved most, when a lightbulb went off — his family wouldn’t be the only ones disappointed in him; so would his On Point for College (On Point) mentors, as well as the high school teachers who believed in his potential from the start.

“It was that moment when I realized a lot of people looked up to me to succeed and believed in my success,” Kearse said. “I didn’t want to be in that situation anymore.”

When Kearse was growing up in Syracuse’s Southside neighborhood, his family stuck together despite challenging times. At one point, they lived without a car after his father was in an accident. During that time he recalls having to walk a lot and hearing gunshots ring through his neighborhood — one that is riddled with repeated acts of violence.

Once he returned to college, Kearse was motivated to turn things around. He chose to buckle down and focus on achieving his academic goals. He went on to earn an associate’s degree in marketing from Morrisville before moving on to the University at Buffalo. He graduated with a 3.8 cumulative GPA (summa cum laude) with a bachelor’s degree in operations and supply chain management.

While Kearse’s academic accomplishments are the direct result of his nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, he credits On Point for making the next step of his education seem possible.

“The staff helped me in many ways,” Kearse said. “They made sure that I got back and forth to school. My advisor also helped me attain an internship that fell in line with my course of study. They are why I consistently stayed in school instead of giving up.”

On Point offers support programs for 17- to 29-year-old students to help them overcome barriers so they can access training, college education and careers that lead to success in life. Since it was established in 1999, On Point has helped more than 7,000 students enroll in college. Between 700-1,000 new students are welcomed each year.

The Community Foundation has fostered On Point’s growth over the years, awarding more than $200,000 in grants dating back to its inception. These grants have had a variety of goals, including measuring performance and community impact, advancing the professional development of its staff and expanding its career mentoring program. The one thing all of the grants had in common is this: they all served the greater goal of helping students like Kearse achieve their potential.

Kearse is now working as a Materials Handling Supervisor for General Motors. His vision for himself goes beyond just his amazing career, however. He also hopes to one day establish his own nonprofit organization to mentor kids.

“I don’t know where I may end up,” he said, “I’m just counting my blessings, seeing and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.”