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"We thank you for setting the paths to higher education. It was you who further instilled the importance of higher education.  It was you who stayed on their backs and in their heads to continue to pursue higher education. It was you who consistently stand by their side through it all."

Teretha Brooks, Parent

Our Mission AND VISION

The mission of Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Programs, Inc. is to change the lives of under-represented college-bound students to empower, encourage, and equip them to obtain a post-secondary education.


We empower communities to help students achieve their educational and career goals through statewide comprehensive outreach, initiatives and partnerships with schools, groups, and businesses.

At Higher Heights, our vision is for every under-represented student in the State of Connecticut to have full and equal access to post-secondary education. We provide underserved and underrepresented students with equitable access to college preparatory resources and services – with our support, they are empowered, encouraged, and equipped to go to college and to become leaders within the community.


At Higher Heights, we don't just believe in racial equity; we actively pursue it as the cornerstone of our mission. For two decades, we've tirelessly worked to level the educational playing field for over 10,000 students in Connecticut. Our commitment goes beyond equal access; we are dedicated to creating real opportunities for students to secure scholarships and grants, amounting to over $800 million, irrespective of their racial or socioeconomic backgrounds.

Understanding that education is a community effort, we invest in empowering not just students, but also their families. Our comprehensive workshops, resources, and personalized guidance are designed to demystify the complexities of higher education for parents and families, enabling them to become effective partners in this journey. We're building strong family-school connections to foster an environment where every student can excel, thereby strengthening the fabric of our communities.

To truly achieve racial equity, we recognize the need for our team to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. We are committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce, ensuring our staff receives continuous training and support to effectively address the unique needs of our students. Our Board of Directors is actively involved in setting measurable goals and regularly evaluating our progress towards these objectives. We hold ourselves accountable for not just meeting, but exceeding our commitment to racial equity, constantly seeking ways to improve and expand our impact.

At Higher Heights, we are more than an organization; we are a movement towards a future where every student, regardless of race or background, has the tools, opportunities, and support to thrive in higher education and beyond.


Since 2004, Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Programs, Inc. (HHYEP) has helped advance high school graduation and college enrollment rates amongst Greater New Haven students. With a 100% high school graduation rate and 95% college enrollment rate over 20 years; and 90% of students coming from low-income backgrounds and 85% of students being first-generational; through local and national partners Higher Heights is now positioned to expand its local reach to impact other local districts and the entire State of Connecticut


Our staff

Dontrel Latta (Board Chair)


Adia C. Jordan

U.S. General Services Administration

Jorgieliz Casanova

Community Advocate

Kim DiBenedito-Rogers (Alumni Parent)

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Ashley McDowell

University of New Haven

James (Jim) Martinez, Ed.D.


Dawn Matera, Ed.D.

Westport College Prep

Tristan Ward

(current HHYEP student board member)

Brown University

Dr Chaka Felder-McEntire

Founder/Executive Director

Vanessa Newman - Community Outreach Liaison. College Access Advisor

Taneha Edwards- College Access Advisor

Errol McDonald - College Access Advisor

Gemini Rorie - AmeriCorps Public Allies College Access Advisor

Keely Segui - AmeriCorp Public Allies Marketing Intern

Sultanya Hamid - Intern (Wesleyan University)


Fill out the form below to apply

Board Application Form
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