News | Student Life

Double Discovery Center faces major transition

  • In transition | Kevin Matthews has served as the executive director of Columbia’s Double Discovery Center for the past year. Under his tenure, the program has experienced a loss of staff and financial resources. He hopes to make the best of the transition.

After losing half its staff, a 45-year-old tutoring program at Columbia is undergoing major changes that could jeopardize the quality of its services.

“The problem is so vast, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint something,” said former Double Discovery Center counselor Stephanie Louis, who resigned during the summer session. “DDC is a very special place and it’s ruined now.”

The Double Discovery Center—a longstanding Columbia program with a budget of over $1 million and a fleet of more than 100 student volunteers—serves nearly 1,000 students in grades 7-12. Nearly all are first-generation college-bound students from low-income families. The center provides tutoring and advising services during the academic year and a trademark residential summer program on campus.

At the start of the spring 2010 semester, DDC had 12 full-time staff members, 10 of whom were trained in teaching and college advising. But since then, half of that staff has parted with the program, marking the loss of decades’ worth of institutional memory. Among the grievances of departed staff were lower academic standards, insufficient fundraising efforts, and the executive director’s unsuccessful leadership.

Staff turnover

One assistant director left in March and the other left in May. The outreach coordinator was gone by early June. Three tutoring counselors left over the summer, as did one interim assistant director, who lasted only a week. Some had no job prospects waiting for them or left for lower-paying work. This week, the president of the Double Discovery Student Organization resigned from her post, to which she had been elected in May.

“When our full-time staff members leave, the analogy that I make is when children hear that mom and dad are splitting up and someone’s moving out of the household. They [students] actually react to it in very much the same way, even if the staff members aren’t great,” DDC Executive Director Kevin Matthews, CC ’80, said. “As it turned out, all the people that left—they were all pretty great.”

DDC student Nicholas Velez, a senior at Frederick Douglass Academy, a public high school in Harlem, said he felt let down. “Not all my resources are gone, but the main ones that I need [are],” he said.

“Nicholas comes across as that cool kid that everybody wants to be with,” Louis said. So it struck her that when she left, he was crying.

Upperclassmen such as Velez, who have gotten to know counselors like Louis over time, have lost fond relationships that allow for a push to study harder and work on a personal statement for college applications. With new hires on their way—Matthews is in the process of bringing in five people—new relationships can be forged, but students and staff present and past agreed that the significance of this staff turnover is greater than the sum of its parts.

A shift in teacher standards

“It was my life while I was in college,” said Amber Moorer, CC ’08, who quit her job at DDC this summer and is now unemployed.

Moorer volunteered for the program throughout her undergraduate years at Columbia and eventually became DDSO president. It felt natural for her to work there after she graduated. At the time, most of the staff had advanced degrees in education or counseling, so she went to Harvard for a master’s in adolescent risk and prevention. Only then did she apply for a full-time position. But upon her return, and over the course of her year on the job as a counselor, she found that fewer staff members had advanced degrees. By the time she left, no one did.

According to Matthews, the University requires DDC staff to have a high school diploma, and a bachelor’s degree is preferred. Matthews himself has a B.A. in political science and previous experience in youth services management—he was DDC executive director from 1990-1998 before leaving to work as a nonprofit consultant in London—but he has no advanced degree.

“For me, counselors’ positions are perfect entry-level positions for people who are right out of college,” he said. “I’ve hired assistant directors without master’s degrees—that’s fine. They have to have some equivalent experience that they bring to the table.”

For Moorer and others associated with the program, this represents a break from tradition and a turn away from the educational example the staff set for students.

In previous years, counselors felt an unspoken obligation to have a master’s degree, Louis said, but now the standards are lower. “The truth is DDC is a hellhole right now,” she said. “There is no one there who knows their ass from their elbow.”

“This is going to sound elitist,” she added, but “there’s a difference between the people who go to Harvard and people who go to CUNY.” Since DDC espouses academic discipline, she said, “That should be represented in your staff.”

Elitism, at once part of Columbia’s intellectual draw and its institutional aloofness, can seem a double-edged sword at DDC. The program caters to a population of students underserved by the education to which they have access, and it projects an image that juxtaposes Columbia’s elite status with, perhaps, an antidote: accessibility for those who might not envision themselves on an Ivy League campus. This has benefits ranging from student recruitment to boosting the University’s public image as it begins construction on its Manhattanville expansion.

But with the loss of staff members with advanced degrees, Cameron McClure, CC ’12 and recently resigned DDSO president, said the quality of the educational services the center can provide will “definitely not” live up to past standards, even with new counselors.

Albert Bencosme, a senior at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics who has been going to DDC since 2007, agreed that the program won’t be the same. “I don’t feel like I’m going to be going to the office that much,” he said.

Different backgrounds

Shaun Abreu, CC ’14 and a DDC graduate, sensed that Matthews’ priority has been that counselors reflect the backgrounds of students rather than prestigious academic credentials. “Based on the people he hired, I would expect that there were more qualified people he could have hired,” Abreu said, adding that, from his standpoint, the center’s policy was that “the people they hire should be a reflection of the students, racially.”

Moorer said she was made to feel that “if you’re white, there’s very little you can do for our students.”

“Every white person that was there left,” Abreu said. “Marvin Cabrera [former outreach coordinator] and Stephanie [Louis] left. They weren’t white, but they experienced the racial tensions.”

“DDC has always been a place where real conversations about race and diversity take place,” McClure said. “I felt like this summer, it was much harder.”

Ganiatu Afolabi, CC ’12 and a DDC volunteer, said she appreciated the value of hiring staff who represent familiar backgrounds to those of the students.

“I understand the logic. A lot of the students don’t really have a lot of successful minority people in their life,” Afolabi said. “To surround them with successful minorities” can be inspiring.

Matthews, who grew up in a low-income, minority home in Washington Heights, serves as such a role model for academic success, having attended Columbia.

Nonetheless, students like Bencosme said a counselor’s racial background doesn’t necessarily correspond with his or her ability to connect with students. What he looks for is expertise. “You need to have that mental background,” he said.

Louis said that Matthews “has a very race-based mentality.”

Matthews called this claim “absolutely incorrect.”

“No one has ever raised an issue with me about there being racial discrimination,” Matthews said. “Our teaching staff is probably not as diverse as it could be. That might be more about the folks that we’re drawing and what little we’re able to pay.”

“We promote diversity,” said Anthony Jones, a current staff member who used to be a counselor for high school students and is now working with seventh and eighth graders. “We blend together and we make it work.”

Matthews later asked, “That there’s a race-based mentality—what the hell does that mean?”

Former staff and volunteers said they felt racial tensions more in subtle gestures than explicit denigration. Louis alleged that Matthews sought out black and Hispanic students for official photographs.

She said a student told her, “I think he doesn’t want me in the picture because I look white.”

Matthews called these criticisms “idle rumor-mongering” and asked, “Why on earth even raise those things if you’ve decided to leave? What’s the point?”

Paper trail

“This semester, I saw a lot that made me really uncomfortable,” Moorer said, citing Matthews’ “attitude toward education and toward our students, and the direction the center should be going in.”

Matthews is more concerned with how DDC appears than how it functions, she explained, demonstrated in part by his alleged submission of plagiarized student papers for a scholarship essay contest.

Each year, DDC holds a writing competition judged by its Board of Friends. When Moorer was looking through submissions, she realized that some had been plagiarized.

“Once you’ve read enough essays, you can tell what’s kid writing and what isn’t,” she said. “So I start freaking out.” She said she contacted students and asked them to fix their papers. On an essay written by a student with whom another counselor had worked, she marked a P with a circle around it to indicate that it had been plagiarized.

But as the deadline approached, there were not enough suitable essays to submit the 10 that the Board of Friends was expecting. Moorer said Matthews was more concerned with submitting the requisite number of papers than about plagiarism.

“He knowingly submitted plagiarized papers,” Louis said.

The paper marked P won.

Matthews has a different account of what happened. When asked whether he knew of any plagiarized papers having been submitted, he responded, “No. Not to my knowledge. Oh, and why would we say that in a newspaper? Why would we say that we had kids who plagiarized an essay? OK. Double Discovery Center, just like every institution dealing with students, has issues of plagiarism that we have to deal with. And there may have been—in fact, I am sure there were a couple of students that plagiarized some information, and a number of those students were told to rewrite their essays, resubmit them, or don’t submit them at all.”

He added, “If indeed one of the winners had plagiarized parts of the paper, I didn’t know that, our board members didn’t know that. And quite frankly, if a staff member knew that, they should have said something.”

Moorer and Louis said they had brought the problem to Matthews’ attention well in advance, as evidenced by last-minute revisions. The winning essay was the same allegedly plagiarized version that Moorer had submitted to Matthews. In the email Matthews sent to the board, which Moorer shared with Spectator, there are clear syntactical disparities between the writing in the winning essay and on its accompanying application form.

“He wanted to make it look like the people who submitted these papers were brilliant scholars,” Louis said. “It isn’t the fault of the kids, really, at the end of the day. It’s the fault of the people who allow that to occur.”

Decline in fundraising

Several people affiliated with DDC, including students, said there are deficiencies in the program’s resources.

Financially, DDC has had to work with less since the global economic downturn stung the center in 2008. When Matthews came into his position a year ago, the program had a full-time development officer whose job it was to fundraise. (DDC receives a little over $1 million in federal grants and Columbia College contributes between $42,000 and $44,000 annually, but the center also seeks outside resources.) The development officer and another position—that of volunteer coordinator—were the only two jobs at DDC that were not covered by grant money, Matthews said. So when the development officer left to pursue a teaching career, he decided not to replace her.

“I knew it’s a position that we’re going to have to bring back at some point. This is not a one-person job,” Matthews said. “But as a way of saving money, you know, it was attrition. That was something we could do at least for a year to put more money in student services. And not surprisingly, I would say that our outside giving is probably down $10,000 from what it was the year before I started, so that’s a direct loss in my mind. It was a gamble.”

Since then, Matthews said he has absorbed responsibility for fundraising.

“But that definitely didn’t happen. He brought in virtually no money,” Moorer countered. Now, she said, “It’s, like, fighting for SAT books. We don’t even have money for the essentials.”

At a staff meeting this spring, she was informed that there were “zero grants in progress.”

Marvin Cabrera, the former volunteer coordinator, left when Matthews could not find the grant money to cover his salary. Although Matthews said the programs require volunteer coordination, he is not looking to hire someone explicitly for that role. “We should all be able to recruit, train, and help supervise volunteers. Those things should be organic to DDC across the board,” he said.

Still, DDC volunteer Afolabi said she had been told that “the explanation is ‘change is good,’ when really there just isn’t enough money to do the same things anymore.”

“They’re constantly saying that they don’t have any money,” former DDC president McClure added.

DDC counselor Jones also noted that money is tight. “At the end of the day, I think you just have to get creative,” he said.

Still, Jones doesn’t think financial concerns are affecting his job or the students themselves: “Kids don’t worry about resources.”

But students have noticed changes. “After the recession, everything went downhill,” said student Bencosme. There have been none of the usual college campus visits, and summer field trips were canceled.

“This summer, we paid more and we got less. There were so many things we didn’t do,” added DDC student Kayla Young, a senior at George Washington High School. Two summers ago, students paid a $25 fee for the six-week residential program. This summer, the cost rose to $100 and students stayed on campus for about four-and-a-half weeks.

Former staff added that, in addition to the program having less money, funding is being used inefficiently. As an example, McClure said DDC overpaid for supplies at Ivy League Stationers (including $6 binders) rather than shop at a discount store.

Matthews argued that, though outside grants are small, DDC is by no means strapped for cash. “I need more time to do more fund development,” he said, adding that hiring new teaching staff has taken hours away from fundraising.

Matthews said he has been weighing his options for new fundraising strategies. He may seek independent nonprofit status for the program, which the University’s umbrella service organization, Community Impact, has. (DDC currently files grant applications under the guise of Columbia.) Another possibility might be to create a specific fund for DDC.

Now, he wants help. “I know I need that,” he said. He recently put out an ad for a development intern and hopes to recruit someone from Columbia’s M.S. program in fundraising management.

Transition in the office

But following the money only goes so far, and at times, there are more intangible considerations. With financial worries as the backdrop, DDC’s office environment has changed over the past several months. Staff members, volunteers, and students felt rising tensions come to the surface.

“The only way you can actually know why someone is leaving is by asking them,” Matthews said. “You can surmise all you want why, but nobody leaves a job for one reason.”

There were several reasons why six staff members left DDC. Moorer summed up her criticisms with an outburst of exasperation: “Ugh, God. It was just so frustrating.”

Louis said she had been “dealing with humiliation for at least six months.” She added, “I feel like there were people forced to leave. I was one of them.”

Upon the resignation of Rachel Ford, CC ’98 and one of the assistant directors, “I heard some hostility,” DDC graduate Abreu said. Ford had worked at DDC during all four years of college and for about a decade after. Now, months after her departure, her former colleagues said she is still seeking employment. Ford did not respond to requests for comment.

“They are brilliant at what they do,” said DDC senior Young, “and for them to leave the way they did, you just knew there was something wrong.” She said she plans to find tutoring resources outside DDC.

“It’s a giant question mark,” said volunteer Afolabi. “I don’t want to forecast failure. I don’t think the office is going to fall into itself, but there will be changes.”

“It eats me inside to know that there’s something going on with the center that Columbia doesn’t necessarily know about,” Abreu said.

“We tried to bring this to everyone’s attention, but no one cares,” Louis explained. For her, it’s clear that the problems are rooted in Matthews’ leadership. “He’s honestly probably the worst thing to happen to DDC,” she said. “He should be fired. I don’t have any ill will toward the man, but he should be fired.”

Matthews sees this as a moment of transition, not collapse.

“It looks as though the center has some instability,” he conceded, but “we are anything but shaky as an organization. There’s been some change. Change is hard for people to deal with. It makes people wonder lots and lots of things, and because people wonder things and people talk out of turn behind folks’ backs doesn’t make it so.”

But even after resigning as DDSO president, McClure is concerned about the center’s fate. “I hope that either the board looks at what’s going on and makes some serious changes or, by the grace of God, they hire a really strong staff that have had 10 years of experience with an identical program,” she said. “I’m not sure they yet realize just how much they’ve lost.”

betsy.morais@columbiaspectator.com

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Ann.mciver2@gmail.com posted on

??? This is the story on Kevin??

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Anonymous posted on

Holy hell, what the fuck is going on over at that place?!?! It's sad, because as a current CC'13er, this is one of the few places on campus that I was really thinking about working.

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Anonymous posted on

You reallly should consider volunteering for DDC despite this. As a tutor you'll work with the students directly and get to make a positive impact, even if things aren't as stable in the office. Working with the students is rewarding in and of itself, regardless of what's going on at an organizational level.

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Anonymous posted on

I used to work at DDC and I agree 100%. The kids could use as much support as they can get.

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Anonymous posted on

This Abreu kid has some balls.....

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Anonymous posted on

HE REALLY DOESN'T HAVE BALLS. HE NEEDS TO GROW SOME, HE IS NUTTING BUT A PUNK THAT TAKES ADVANTAGE OF OTHERS TO DO HIS WORK. HIS COLUMBIA ESSAY FOR EXAMPLE.

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Anonymous posted on

Very True. He knows why and how he got in to Columbia....we'll see how long he stays in....

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Anonymous posted on

@CC'12 - Wait, are you saying this from experience with DDC. Do you still find it to be a suitable place to work? Is this what all Columbia bureaucracies are like?

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Anonymous posted on

Yes I'm speaking from personal experience. I've worked at DDC both during summers and during the semester. As the semester commitment is as little as two hours a week of tutoring, I think that it will continue to be a fine place to volunteer regardless of what is going on in the office.
I can't generalize to all bureaucracies at Columbia.

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Anonymous posted on

I completely agree. The center is about the students. This article highlights a VERY small sect of work place drama that has nothing to do with the integrity of the program and what they are doing for these kids. You should absolutely still join- the organization and the work it does for these kids speaks for itself- don't let a small, sad minority deter you.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

Someone Please fix this

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Anonymous posted on

Sounds like spoiled, bitter, entitled former co-workers. How do you abandon the students in the middle of the summer!
Very Selfish!

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Anonymous posted on

Couldn't agree more.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

They are disgruntled employees full of malice and ill will, who are taking advantage of students that don't know any better! Someone should contact their parents and inform them of what their children are being used for.

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Anonymous posted on

It elates me to know that someone will speak up when things are going wrong. This article shows that the problems at DDC are enormous and should have been dealt with months ago. Where is the Board of Directors? They must have been asleep while all around DDC was falling down. How and why did they let this happen to a much needed and previously successful program? What a shame!

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Anonymous posted on

epic piece Betsy, nice job!

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Anonymous posted on

This guy's clearing out his desk today...

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Anonymous posted on

Why doesn't the article talk about all the great things the program has accomplished this past year, 4 students getting into Columbia and this summer, Dean Moody-Adams, and Professor Andrew Deblanco giving the students a lecture on citizenship and service.

http://news.columbia.edu/doubl...

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Anonymous posted on

kinda think you're missing the point bro. i think the article is trying to say that all the positive things that DDC got done were the result of the people who are now decrying the Center's current ideologies.

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Anonymous posted on

who's bro!

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Anonymous posted on

I was a student and a part of that lecture class, and that class was funded by the Teagle Foundation, and was itself a separate thing from the DDC Upward Bound- it even included half of Talent Search Students. We were only recommended by DDC. And quiet frankly, we dormed with the other student and we heard that the summer classes were completely dumbed down and kids complaining that every year it gets worse and worse.

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Anonymous posted on

@ Ley, is it true that he is clearing his desk today?

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Anonymous posted on

no i have no clue

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Anonymous posted on

Don't think he will. There will always be bitter childish ex-employees, the BOD and university know better than that...

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Anonymous posted on

Unprofessional! they are some bitter ass ex-employees....but why drag the students into this mess? The tutoring and mentoring DDC does will undergo change but should not effect the positive impact it has on students lives

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Anonymous posted on

lol, i kinda think that the students, university and high school alike, both spoke for themselves.

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Anonymous posted on

They left, because if they didn't all leave at once - it wouldn't make a statement. They had to sacrifice now for the benefit of future students. I know all the students have felt the changes and the slow downfall of DDC which has occurred around the time Kevin Matthews became director. He's very slick in what he does. I was told directly by the employee he was talking to that "it doesn't matter if they all go to CUNY's, DDC is about getting them into college."

Kevin must be fired.

The staff that has left, including legendary Rachel, Amber, and Stephanie who everyone can agree were OUTSTANDING councelors left in tears.

I dont know if you understand how good we students feel when we can present our college essays and applications and other things to someone and have them give us HONEST feedback.

That doesn't happen anymore.

I'd rather seek my help from a Duke Univ. graduate like Stephanie Louis or Columbia and then Harvard student and graduate like Amber Moore

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Anonymous posted on

What is sad and misguided about the above comments is that you have students who really believe that Amber and Stephanie ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE CAPABLE OF HELPING STUDENTS AT THE CENTER. There is a great quote that says no one is smarter than everyone. The arrogance that you need a HARVARD degree or Duke Degree to help students get into college is absurd. And if these two are so smart why don't they create their own non-profit and take all the students with them.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

What you don't know, is that they're already helping us.
And sure, I'm sure that Kevin can recommend some good CUNY's for me.
I think BMCC is a good place, i'm sure he'll agree. After all his B.A. is quite impressive.

That was a sarcastic comment.

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Anonymous posted on

FYI, Mr. Matthews himself is a Columbia graduate. It seems that there are differing views in which way to lead the organization. That will always happen in businesses and non-profits alike. But usually, the actual decisions are left up to the HIRED LEADER, in this case, Mr. Matthews. These employees, while I'm sure were very good at their interactions with the students, do not get to decide how to lead the organization because they were not qualified for that position, if they were, they would have been hired a year ago instead of Mr. Matthews. They clearly have dedication to the program, I think they believe they are doing the right thing. But in reality they are only making worse a very fixable situation. You are not doing anything but clearly demonstrating why you both don't have your jobs any more. Dedication and passion for the kids is one thing, but you still need to know how to work in a professional setting. Grow up girls.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

If the students feel the same way, who are you to tell DDC what you think. If you have not experienced the office and the cheap college advice it now gives, please don't make a statement.

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Anonymous posted on

Counselors enhance your experience, but the purpuse and goals of DDC is what has made it so strong for the past couple of decades.
This article is giving the Double Discovery Center a lot of heat but they will overcome this obstacle and continue to be successful. I wish DDC the best.
P.S I will attest to Stephanie Louis not having a master degree when she was first hired as it states on her bio on the DDC website (it has not been updated as of yet):
"Stephanie Louis
9th and 10th Grade Counselor - Upward Bound
Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Miami, Florida, Stephanie graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Psychology and is completing her M.A. in Psychology from New York University. She joined the DDC family in October of 2005..."
Not all DDC students loved Stephanie Louis, so please lets not generalize and think that they all did

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

a student obviously didn't write this.

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Anonymous posted on

What this article doesn't say is that Matthews forced us to sign BLANK timesheets before we got paid and paid us (late) for hours that we DID NOT work at wages that WERE NOT true to our contracts. We stayed for the kids, but it's really hardly worth it for the kids to stay anymore...

I worked with all of these people over when I worked for DDC over the summer. They are not bitter employees.

No one's "dragging" the students into this mess. Ask them what they think of Louis, Afolabi, and Moorer.

Ask THE PARENTS what they think of Matthews and the direction he's taken DDC in.

They ADORE them. They don't swear at the students, or judge them by their skin color, like Matthews does. It's about time this situation has been brought to light.

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Anonymous posted on

You are making some pretty big accusations, accusing a man of judging someone by their skin color. Think about what you're doing and what you're saying...

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Anonymous posted on

damn, i'd be bitter if i worked for that jackass, too. it's stories like this that make me not want to work for a non-profit.

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Anonymous posted on

As an alumna of the DDC organization, I can attest to the fact that this organization will never be the same. When I left, there wasn't the same passion about helping students as there was when I first began in winter 2006. Stephanie Louis, Amber Moorer, and Anthony Jones have had an immeasurable impact on my life, whether or not they know it, but the staff in the office now don't seem to have the same dedication, partly because of Matthews' actions. Honestly, I was happy to have graduated when I did because I was afraid something like this would've happened and I would have been left hanging, just like the current seniors are now.

To the individual who thought about working at DDC: don't let this deter from your passion, but if this is not something you are passionate about or do not have the patience to deal with, then steer clear. Clearly Matthews has his own vision of how DDC should be run and he won't be satisfied until it is exactly how he wants it. It's unfortunate that DDC has had to lose so many great counselors and motivators because of a bad leader with a very poor leadership skills.

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Anonymous posted on

Can anyone tell us why the student fee increased from $25.00 for six weeks to $100.00 for four and a half? Why such a significant increase for a shorter time period? Where did the extra money go? This entire situation is astounding, and the people who spoke up should be applauded rather than be called bitter! The students, who might have benefited from the program in the future, will suffer most from this debacle; and, for that reason alone, the truth needed to be told. While the truth is sometimes unpopular, it is always the RIGHT thing to do! How long would this have gone on if those "brave ones" had not come forth? The facts speak for themselves and speak volumes about the current leadership. There is NO good excuse for the failure of this once highly beneficial program.

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Anonymous posted on

I don't know the exact finances, but it's important to note that we are in a recession and non-profits are hit especially hard during these times as grants and donations stop coming in. ALSO, it's important to realize that the organization has been OVER BUDGET for years. The directors prior to Mr. Matthews mismanaged funds and thus there NEEDED to be restructuring- instead of blaming all this change on one man it's important to look at the facts and the state of the program before he came in and had to fix things (with actions that may have been unpopular in the short run, but will only help the program stay afloat in the long run).

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Anonymous posted on

Are you serious? How much do you think is the cost of any summer program?

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Anonymous posted on

Matthews seems like the real problem. The BOD should get rid of him and hire someone who has the same passion as before. Someone who wants to do the right thing by the kids and doesn't have a selfish agenda like it appears Matthews does. If I was a Columbia student, I wouldn't get involved in this. Maybe find a new organization that will do a similar type of job as the old DDC. I wouldn't want to spend any time with Matthews and be influenced by him in any way. He sounds toxic to me.

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Anonymous posted on

It is impossible to find someone with more passion for DDC than Mr. Matthews. DDC thrived under his strong leadership between 1990 and 1998 and it was only because of unfortunate mismanagement in the early 2000's and the economic recession that DDC is experiencing its current financial difficulties. When hired in the summer of 2009 he was unlucky enough to inherit massive budget problem and already embittered employees. As great as the former employees were, they were not very responsive to change and did not handle the loss of Olger very well. They succesfully forced out the new director, Dr. G and apparently thought they would have their way with Mr. Matthews as well. Anyone who has spent any time with this man knows that his heart is endless and he will do everything within his power to make DDC and the students succeed. At one point in time you could have said the same about both Ms. Louis and Ms. Moorer. The ladies who sat tirelessly in that office, reading college essay after college essay are clearly not the same catty, immature women who felt the need to air their dirty laundry out for everyone to read. If you have a personal problem with someone, deal with it personally. Don't try to desecrate this great organization and those like Mr. Matthews who are working tirelessly so that these kids succeed in life.

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Anonymous posted on

If you all think the ex-staff members are careless about the students,

Maybe you didn't know how much much they are still dedicated to helping us, whether by email, or -with parents permission, meeting up and going along with the college process.

Thank you Stephanie and Amber- I really didn't think people like you existed.

Fix the problem NOW. Get Kevin out! I'm a senior and I need this problem fixed as soon as possible

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Anonymous posted on

Where is Olger when you need him...tell him to write you some grants, nvm..I do not think he needed them haha.

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Anonymous posted on

This article is kinda harsh, though...idk what would have been right..

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Anonymous posted on

If I remember correctly Stephanie Louis didn't have a master degree when she was first hired! Lets get the facts straight!

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Anonymous posted on

lol @ this person being a "DDCSTUDENT". let's face it, no student would ever speak out against her, solely out of their loyalty to miss louis. ladies and gentlemen, we have an imposter among us!

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Anonymous posted on

what about loyalty to ddc?

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Anonymous posted on

That Abreu Kid should be called a traitor, how do you "go in" on the organization that helped you even before Amber was there.

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Anonymous posted on

Not only that, but he also critiqued Kevin's actions. Kevin helped him so much for the college process AND helped him get into Columbia. "Don't bite the hand that feeds you"

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Anonymous posted on

Stephanie was there...

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Anonymous posted on

THANK YOU BART!

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Anonymous posted on

This is an incredibly biased one sided story. It doesn't take a college degree to see that these few ex-employees are bitter and lashing out. This article also does not mention the state in which Mr. Matthews was brought in to DDC, one in which the previous director was fired after only a short time period (I think less than a year), again after being pushed out by bitter employees. The program was in serious financial trouble when he came in as director, they were over budget at least $100,000. While everyone has their faults, it's not fair to blame everything on one person, especially when it appears that these alleged brilliant ex-employees abandoned the kids in the middle of the summer. And anyone who has met Mr. Matthews knows of the passion he has for all of the kids in the program to succeed. If nothing else I think this article really shows the brash, young and immature nature of Amber and Stephanie. Slandering a mans name and an organizations credibility does nothing but hurt the program they are supposedly so passionate about....Nice work ladies.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

It is devastating to see how former employees of an organization with a greater purpose, not only bash DDC but involve students in what appears to be direct personal issues with the director of the program. The goal of DDC is to enroll low-income/ first generation into college, whose likelyhood of attending a higher education institution would be less on their own. It is an achievement to have DDC student attend an Ivy League however, not all DDC students will attend one. This does not mean that other colleges or universities they may attend are less of an academic institution, or that the students are not capable into attending one. As I stated before, if a DDC student graduates from highschool and is enrolled at a college, DDC has done their job. DDC guides students towards higher education through tutoring, weekend classes to enhance studies at school, college trips and providing workshops through out a DDC students four years of attendance of this program. If a student has not been able to obtain the grades necessary to be accepted to these Ivy Leagues with the assistance and guidance of DDC but for instance the student is accepted to another college for example Syracuse, CUNY or SUNY DDC has done their job regardless.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

Students would not be able to understand issues taking place in the workplace because they are not staff. In addition to that, it is inappropriate and unprofessional for the staff members to involve the students in issues that they should not have a part of. Yes, DDC has been tight with money, but the show must go on and the main goal needs to be met. So they had to shorten the summer program, at least it was not cut off completely which would have been a worse scenario. This is an example of problem solving at a non-profit organization; these are issues you deal with when there is a lack resources.
As a former student and volunteer, I have seen DDC change over the past 6+ years. People are always resistant to change. I remember when Stephanie Louis was new to the DDC staff and how students were not fond of her at first and then they grew to like her. Every four years the students change in rotation and eventually they adapt to the new counselors. This is called life.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

Counselors enhance your experience, but the purpuse and goals of DDC is what has made it so strong for the past couple of decades.
This article is giving the Double Discovery Center a lot of heat but they will overcome this obstacle and continue to be successful. I wish DDC the best.
P.S I will attest to Stephanie Louis not having a master degree when she was first hired as it states on her bio on the DDC website (it has not been updated as of yet):
"Stephanie Louis
9th and 10th Grade Counselor - Upward Bound
Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Miami, Florida, Stephanie graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Psychology and is completing her M.A. in Psychology from New York University. She joined the DDC family in October of 2005..."

Not all DDC students loved Stephanie Louis, so please lets not generalize and think that they all did.

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Anonymous posted on

Dear Elizabeth P,

Please stop commenting under random aliases such as DDCParent and the like. There's no need to lie. Also, just as a tip, when you respond, it might be smarter not to respond to all of the comments you don't like within a 15 minute timeframe. It's kind of a giveaway. People get enough spam in their email; don't add to it.

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Anonymous posted on

They all acquired their higher education degrees while working at DDC. This is how they pay Columbia University and Double Discovery Center back. Nice work, we can now see what you are really about. Abusing privileges, making our parents and us wait for you to come back from class, a dentist appointment or from having a two hour lunch. At times even avoiding us because you had class work to do. Always pretending to be so important and overwhelmed. Please Stephanie! You don't care about us, you played favoritism all the time. Those that kissed your behind you catered too. Those that didn't you don't even know our names. I am a current student and will continue to attend DDC!

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Anonymous posted on

To any confused readers out there, I apologize for the ridiculous commenting that is above this. Unfortunately, from about 11:30AM-12:30PM EST on Monday, September 20, 2010, one person, under such guises like "DDCAlum,DDCWorker, and DDCParent" decided to be a gigantic troll/spammer on this message board and preach to all of you that a reporter and two bitter ex-employees were spreading slanderous information about DDC. I apologize, because in retaliation, I decided to be an ass and re-spam Elizabeth "Holier-than-thou, Proud LATINA (with extra emphasis on the I)" Perez for her shameless exhibition as an undercover DDC apologist under the mask of "DDC[insert-favorite-relative-here]". While what I did was wrong, I hope that you all can forgive me, for my intentions were in the right place; I merely wanted to make sure that all readers knew that it was only one person that was literally trying to shove information/propaganda down your throats. And because I know that she will not apologize for trying to bully you into believing that a rundown Center is still in its halcyonian days of academic prosperity, I will apologize on her behalf. Sorry.

Also, because I have decided to speak up, I now await a "DDCWorker/Alum/Parent" superorganism to now come track me down and try to lecture me into submission about "false accusations/slander/war crimes". If I don't make it out alive, please tell me family I love them.

And remember, YES WE CAN!

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Anonymous posted on

What we need to do is take a higher road and realize that we can't change the article, the situations that happened or the bad feelings that have transpired however life is too short to focus on the past. It is time to move on and work together as a unit to help all students. At the end of the day WHOEVER has worked at ddc in the past, currently or in the future have all shared a common goal of helping students succeed regardless of race, creed, or color.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

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Anonymous posted on

I always knew Stephanie was hating on Anthony!

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Anonymous posted on

To the person highly obsessed with me,

Its interesting you are attacking my character without coming forth with your actual name. This is my first post to the article. I wonder, who are you? But to be honest I could care less.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth P.
ep002007@mymail.pomona.edu

You can email me there any reservations/comments you may have.

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Anonymous posted on

:D

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Anonymous posted on

Elizabeth you are a G, You go girl!

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Anonymous posted on

ELIZABETH IS A MEGA G!!

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Anonymous posted on

What the hell is going on over there and with these comments?!?! I haven't worked for DDC for a little over three years and am sad to learn of it's troubles and loss of great staff.... If the pettiness of the "Betty-Hater" is any indication, then no doubt the organization is failing in part as a result of childish personal gripes and short sightedness.

I don't pretend to know what has gone wrong these last few years, but DDC has always been a place for students to thrive and grow into better academics and better versions of themselves then when they arrive... Please don't forget that.

Please put your energy towards helping the program make a comeback instead of using it to launch spiteful accusations and increase conflict.

Tawana G.
SEAS '07

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Coco Lopez posted on

There is a difference between people who go to Harvard and people who go to CUNY...I'm saving thousands!

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Anonymous posted on

I must admit that I am really disappointed not only in the comments to this article but in the University's willingness and interest to post an article like this. All Universities and communities have a responsibility to support community serving initiatives and programs, especially the ones that are run out of their own campus. Staff turnover, disgruntled employees etc are not unique to DDC, all organizations experience it. It is disappointing and disturbing that instead of supporting an organization that has been on Columbia's campus for over 30 years the University decides to exploit it's temporary weaknesses and give an undeserving ex-employee attention and gratification that they do not deserve.

At the heart of this program and the at the heart of those that continue to support and work for it (see: Anthony Jones) are the students. To those whom the program really matters, the students come first and always will. Times are changing, the needs of staff and students are changing and as with any organization DDC will work to meet the needs of those changes. Despite this article and the temporary hype around its nonsense, DDC and its current employees will continue to do the work necessary to support the students and their successes in NY.

I am disappointed that so much time has gone into this and I have a different view of Columbia University as a result of their indiscretion. The reporter and the employees that helped support this article should be ashamed of themselves and the amount of time they put into highlighting someone else's flaws. "Your light doesn't shine any brighter by attempting to put out someone else's" As a pre-college university employee I support the work that DDC does and hope that despite the negativity they will continue to do the great work that they do for so many NY youth.

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Anonymous posted on

the Spec is independent of the University...so it is not the University's willingness, trust me - they do not want poor publicity.

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Anonymous posted on

I was an RTA in 2006. I worked alongside Rachel, Marvin, Stephanie, and Amber. I understand the frustration individuals possess at the very thought that this article exists – that individuals who do not work at DDC are printing criticism about the Center. But, far more importantly, I remember the individuals who worked at DDC when I was a Columbia student. I have never known any of them to be bitter or petty; I know all of them to possess an extraordinary dedication to DDC.

It is clear that this article does not fully explain what is happening at DDC in this moment. But it is also clear that an investigation must be conducted. Many of the comments on this board fail to acknowledge the possibility that there may be serious problems at DDC. Everyone needs to pull together to support current DDC students, but there must also be serious consideration of the claims made in this article. Anyone who has been a student or volunteer at DDC in the last ten years has reason to trust the individuals who resigned. Just as Kevin Matthews can’t be solely responsible for the failures at DDC, the series of resigned staff members cannot all be inexplicably bitter.

Current DDC students will be in my prayers.

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Anonymous posted on

I actually agree with your post. There are always 3 truths to a story, one side, the other side, and then what actually happened. As a longtime volunteer, I spent a considerable amount of time with Rachel, Marvin, Stephanie and Amber. I would first like to clarify that not all of the employees that left in the past couple of months were bitter; it was only the two that were actually quoted in the article (Stephanie and Amber). All comments from other employees are merely hearsay from the same two impassioned employees who directed the article. I, like most other people who have commented on this blog, cannot deny the passion and dedication Stephanie and Amber have had to the program. However, appearances can be deceiving. Sure, Stephanie and Amber stayed late in to the night and read college essay after college essay, but when it came to working on a professional level in an office setting, they had their flaws. There are 2 things people need to work at DDC, they need to work well with the kids but they also need to work well in a professional environment. Showing up at 11am and wearing t-shirts and sneakers to work everyday, doesn't cut it. When Mr. Matthews came in to office he demanded more of them professionally that previous directors had not, and they could not live up to these standards. They worked well under Olger's reign, who was a fantastic director but had a very different management style. Since his departure they have had trouble working under new directive and were embittered long before Mr. Matthews arrived. While it would be irresponsible not to investigate the above claims, I am confident that any investigation will only show two formerly respected employees making false accusations. These women do not represent failures at DDC, the only failure may be the financial difficulties the program has had of late, but that is why Mr. Matthews was hired in the first place. I'm no economic genius but financial difficulties, especially in a recession, are usually not solved overnight. I think we need to give this man more time before we are so quick to judge...

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Anonymous posted on

Dumb comment anthony.

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Anonymous posted on

DDC is like a family. You do NOT air family laundry to all your nosy neighbors. Clearly, these individuals (Stephanie, Amber, and company) have no sense of what loyalty truely means. If you have problems wiht the way things are run address them. Make suggestions of how they could be run more efficiently. However, when your suggetions are not implimented, do not turn into a grumpy old Scrroge, there is clearly a reason why the suggestions were not implimented. Personally, I view Kevin as a highly skilled leader. The purpose of a leader is to guide a team to accomplishing the set goals. If the team is unwilling to be lead, the leader must create another team that is equaly skilled to complete the tasks AS WELL AS willing to be lead. I am very disappointed to know that my DDC family is bickering like this. :(

DDC Graduate

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Anonymous posted on

D.D.C. is a family, however, don't talk badly about them just because they are mad that where they have worked for several years is in complete chaos. In fact, you should be commending them for their courage. Some of these things did have to be addressed. As a D.D.C. alumni, I would sure like to be informed about issues going on in the program. I mean, I owe a lot to most of these people (the ones that left), and I sure as hell would get mad if they are leaving because they felt uncomfortable with the poor leadership.

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Anonymous posted on

Seems like a poorly researched story with a bold headline. The article itself says a lot about the poor quality of education at Columbia, since it was written by a Columbia student. This article is rife with errors in logic, hearsay, and it lacks style. All par for the course at Columbia, where cheating is also a major problem.

I studied at Columbia while working there and managed a 4.33 GPA. I can say with high confidence that there is little difference in the quality of education one would receive at Columbia v. CUNY. Amber seems utterly unaware of that fact. If there is a difference, then CUNY is probably better (because of the lack of grade inflation, students get a real sense of their command of material that is obscured by the general lack of rigor at Columbia). More frustrating is that students who get into Columbia think it is an indicator of their intelligence, and the grade inflation policies affirm their beliefs. I would guess that a student with a 3.6 GPA at Columbia can probably expect to earn about a 3.0 at a CUNY if they work at it.

Working conditions at Columbia are abysmal, with few exceptions. If the author wanted to write an article about a lack of leadership or professionalism or racial tensions at Columbia, there are tons of other examples. This article is just lazy.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you.

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Anonymous posted on

WOW! i believe everyone is entitled to say how they feel but this is just b.s. I think this was way out of line and for people with "degrees" and such it was a poor way of handling the situation.

As a former student in DDC i know very well who these people were in and out of the office. They were beautiful people inside and out. To read the things they said has made me really sad. One thing in specific that i can't seem to get over was ..

.”“This is going to sound elitist,” she added, but “there’s a difference between the people who go to Harvard and people who go to CUNY.” Since DDC espouses academic discipline, she said, “That should be represented in your staff.”

wasn't this coming from the same person that told her students that there was nothing wrong with going to a CUNY school?! From the same "concerned and loving counselor" that would tell us shoot for the stars but if you don't land exactly where u expected make the best out of it and from there move foward...

This article talks so much about whats his face but look how the staff that worked with us and helped us first hand were so quick to turn their backs on us. Correct me if im wrong but thats exactly how it looks.

It doesn't matter what i read about DDC it will always have a special place in my heart. I understand money is a major issue, but where in this world isn't it? Besides all the inside mommma drama DDC is a wonderful place to grow and to really understand the value of life itself. Academics is the basis of this program, i completly agree but it goes way beyond the classroom. For anyone who attended DDC or even got to spend time inside the office, well the students atleast saw that. We all know that all of us wouldn't be in the office JUST to do homework. A lot of us would go to the office if we needed to talk to someone about our personal issues, if we needed to cry and have someone to listen or if we simply didn't want to go home. This was a place to build memories and help us progress in life but it was also a place to keep kids off the street.

i think i should stop here cause this is just wayyyyy to fustrating! just remember Don't bite the hand that feeds you smh.

on a happy note the DDC FAMILY is and always will remain strong !

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Anonymous posted on

Beautiful commentarty from the heart of a beautiful ddc student. You summed it up perfectly!

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Anonymous posted on

I completely agree with Andujar92. I can't believe that the same people that we respected so much because they told us it was ok to take another route "if you weren't Harvard material" are now speaking this way. It is just sad to see what they really think of the rest of us that are apparently "not good enough" for them all of a sudden just because they got a Columbia/Harvard degree. Obviously not all the students come from strong family and academic guidance, which is the whole point of DDC and it is why so many have felt so close connections to so many DDC staff members over the years.
As a former DDC student this just feels like been betrayed by your big brother or sister to hear people like Louis and Moorer speak the way they are. I understand there have been changes but you should take care of it in a private matter not discredit everyone else just to make a point.
Just like Andujar92 said DDC was more than a place to do homework; it was were you could trust the staff to guide you in the right direction because they believe in you. I can't believe after reading this that these are the same people that i spend 4 years trusting and believing that what they were telling me made sense and i did have a chance...
Honestly, if this is the way you guys are thinking and speaking out to your colleagues and your students then you are not the people i thought you were and maybe it is time for you to depart DDC because this is not the kind of people DDC students (who might not get Columbia degrees!!) should be mentor from.
Thank you for all the hard work you have done in the past but if there is still a little of any care for DDC from you, you should part your ways because you are not as strong as i thought you were...So disappointed...

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Anonymous posted on

I agree with Andujar92. As I read this article I was shocked. I think people showed a great level of immaturity. And yes it is true, the situation was handled extremely poorly. Some of the things people said were uncalled for.

I went to DDC for 4 years and graduated in the 2008. I know everybody that was mentioned in this article. The Double Discovery Program, yes is a program used to help first generation students academically speaking but, it is much more than that. The program gives you a sense of direction and self involvement along with the college experience that some people never had.

I was shocked to read that Amber Moorer literally explained that there is a difference between a CUNY student and a Harvard student. She always encouraged everybody to go to college and that it does not matter if you are going to a CUNY school or not. I believe Moorer's "explanation" on the differences in where a student goes, shows a great level of immaturity by her part. Not only does this contradict the person that she showed me during the years I spent at DDC but it also discredits her.

I believe that everybody in DDC worked adequately and did there best. They (DDC staff, alumni, and more) not only helped students but they formed a family.

I think that the people who were quoted in this article spoke out of the heat of the moment...better yet I hope.

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Anonymous posted on

Oh wow. i really did dig up some dirt when i looked DDC up. 
Well, Stephanie i miss you. DDC will never be the same without you. 
You taught me the quadratic formula! lol. -- Anywho, i believe that DDC in general doesn't focus enough on LGBTQ rights. i feel that the more minorities that are put as staff, the more closed minded the program becomes. 

There is a brand new staff this year and they are a group of very amazing people, with highly recognized backgrounds.

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Anonymous posted on

I am in shock. I just read this article, then I looked at the date. What happened over there? I was a student in this program during the 90's, and Matthews was at the head. There were not any problems back then!!! I worked there over the summer when I came home from college and the program was still hanging on. I almost feel like I need to go over there and help out ASAP. This program was responsible for helping me get into college. I would hate to see such a vital community based organization go down the drain.

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Abraham M Gerstenfeld posted on

This breaks my heart ! I was in the first graduating class of PDD. Roger was the director of the program (Great director, person, educator, friend). There were many things the students of the 1st graduating class had in common and continue to have in common with current students. It didn't make a difference if you were black, white, hispanic, etc. We all lived in ghettos, poverty, we all showed potential, and the desire to pull ourselves out of the ghettos through education and hard work. It is 2014 isn't it ? There will always be racism, bigotry, ignorance, however there is no place for it in this program. Especially from the leader of young minds. I had the best time of my life at PDD, I made lifelong friendships at Columbia.... Mr. Matthew's put ego, ignorance, past injustices aside. Its about the students and who will best serve THEM. Black White Yellow Brown Purple .... the question should be who will give them the very best opportunity to break the cycle of oppression. Ego ... let it go !

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Abraham M Gerstenfeld posted on

This breaks my heart ! I was in the first graduating class of PDD. Roger was the director of the program (Great director, person, educator, friend). There were many things the students of the 1st graduating class had in common and continue to have in common with current students. It didn't make a difference if you were black, white, hispanic, etc. We all lived in ghettos, poverty, we all showed potential, and the desire to pull ourselves out of the ghettos through education and hard work. It is 2014 isn't it ? There will always be racism, bigotry, ignorance, however there is no place for it in this program. Especially from the leader of young minds. I had the best time of my life at PDD, I made lifelong friendships at Columbia.... Mr. Matthew's put ego, ignorance, past injustices aside. Its about the students and who will best serve THEM. Black White Yellow Brown Purple .... the question should be who will give them the very best opportunity to break the cycle of oppression. Ego ... let it go !

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tbhlve posted on

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