THE BLOG
11/19/2013 12:24 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Serving The Underserved Through Education in East Harlem

One of eight children growing up in Harlem, Anthony Leslie was the first in his family to get a college degree. Over the course of his time in a college readiness program offered by East Harlem's Union Settlement, which he entered during his sophomore year of high school, Anthony got a job, participated in financial workshops and decided he wanted to go to college. Union Settlement guided Anthony through the college application and preparatory process, realizing his talent and passion for film which led to his acceptance into the Art Institute of NYC. Now at the Art Institute, Anthony is a school ambassador, a tutor and has started his own production company, shooting videos, commercials and photographs. Anthony credits his success to his experiences at Union Settlement, saying, "the same level of hard work that I learned to do at Union Settlement I applied to my life."

AT&T, through our $350 million Aspire program, is committed to helping young people graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills they need to get into college and enter the workforce. Union Settlement, whose mission complements our own, brings education, wellness and community-building programs to underserved New Yorkers and empowers its residents with opportunities to better their lives. Its College Readiness Program enables New York City students to gain access to higher education through counseling, academic enrichment and internship opportunities. Union Settlement has a strong track record of sending students off to college and it is thanks to this program that Anthony was able to get into college and has made such a success story for himself.

Union Settlement also builds a commitment to community in those they serve. Take two former College Readiness Program participants, Samantha Williams and Brianna Watson, who returned to Union Settlement to start a program of their own called Gifted Souls, a theater arts program for young girls created as part of a college internship requirement. Samantha, a Musical Theater major at Drew University, and Brianna, a freshman at Monroe College, came up with the program to expose girls to dance, theater, vocals, and other performance skills. As Union Settlement alum, they believe in giving everyone an opportunity to succeed, and Gifted Souls enables participating girls to build self-confidence through learning and collaboration.

For the past 50 years, Union Settlement's College Readiness Program has helped more than 20,000 young people gain admission to college, the majority of which are the first in their families to do so. The program was established in 1964 in the wake of the civil rights movement, and the first summer enrichment program for rising seniors took place during a period of riots in Harlem following the accidental shooting of a child. The program offers pre-college summer courses in science, technology, writing and theater as well as a one-week summer college stay for high school students to give them a glimpse of what college life is like. Over 90 percent of College Readiness students have been accepted to at least one institution of higher education and 20 percent have gone on to graduate school.

Samantha, Brianna, Anthony and so many like them at Union Settlement show us the power of giving and how far a little help can go. I can't think of a better #GivingTuesday recipient than Union Settlement. I am proud AT&T is supporting the organization and encourage all New Yorkers to remember to give this #GivingTuesday!

AT&T's #GivingTuesday campaign will bring additional resources to Union Settlement to help more young people graduate from high school and go to college. Beginning Tuesday, November 19th until #GivingTuesday on December 3rd, AT&T's #GivingTuesday participation will center on a Twitter campaign including facts, anecdotes, photos, quotes and more about Union Settlement and the lives that the organization has helped. In each tweet, we will ask the public to retweet our messages, and for each retweet, AT&T will make a donation to Union Settlement.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2013) on December 3. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. We'll feature at least one post from a #GivingTuesday partner every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here.

And if you'd like to share your own #GivingTuesday story, please send us your 500-850-word post to impactblogs@huffingtonpost.com.