BOCA RATON, Fla. – At one time, Guesnaisha Altena, 18, and Cynthia Leconte, 18, of Boca Raton High School, didn’t know each other, but had a lot in common. Neither had dreams of attending college before they were told about PROPEL. Both had friends who participated in the afterschool tutoring programs at the nonprofit agency, and both were referred there for the same reason.

“I needed help with my classes and learning the language,” said Altena, who was born in Haiti before coming to the U.S. with her father and seven sisters. She had lost her mother to an earthquake in Haiti. She is now accepted to Florida Atlantic University as a freshman in the 2019-2020 class – the first in her family to attend a university. Her sister, 15, also takes tutoring classes at PROPEL.

PROPEL (People Reaching Out to Provide Education & Leadership) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth from south Lantana to Boca Raton achieve academic success through leadership training, tutoring and life-skills programs.

Located in east Boca Raton, PROPEL successfully works with more than 100 students through its afterschool and weekend programs, focusing on literacy enhancement, SAT/ACT Prep, STEM programs, healthy living initiatives and postsecondary career planning.

Leconte has a similar story, but she lives with her mother. A senior, Leconte has maintained a 4.0 GPA thanks to her afterschool work, and is considering not only FAU, but also the University of North Florida and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University.

“A friend in school told me about PROPEL,” said Leconte, who is bilingual, like Altena. “I learned how to speak English by listening to others and watching television, but writing and reading was harder, as was math. I learned here how to catch up and keep up. The test prep helped me score well. Now, I tell my friends about it.”

PROPEL CEO Gregg Francis said the nonprofit is actively seeking financial support to be able to help more students, who with the right guidance and instruction, are competing for scholarships.

“These are bright, energetic kids, who have learned so much on their own,” he said. “We teach them the missing pieces, the test-taking strategies and the life skills they need to succeed. Guesnaisha and Cynthia are great examples of what all of our kids are capable of doing.”

To learn more about PROPEL, visit or call 561-955-8553.