West New York-based nonprofit providing free college assistance celebrates growth


A West New York-based nonprofit providing free college assistance celebrated their growth with a big unveil at their second annual summer dinner at Last Palmas last week.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“First off, not all students have the guidance to even know how to apply to these schools, we know that, that’s why TCAT’s here. The other thing I want to bring up is something called brain drain,” began Tiger College Advising Team Executive Director Michael Sanchez.

“So brain drain is the phenomenon in sociology where people, after getting a college education, leave their communities. So all of the resources that communities, especially low-income communities invest in their students, end up leaving once these students end up going to college. And so that isn’t good because whatever chances the communities have of improving are kind of lost.”

According to their website, nearly one in four (23 percent) high-achieving, low-income students apply to college solely on their own, while over 50 percent of the same demographic do not apply to any selective universities despite being qualified.

The organization also hosted virtual college speaking panels during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other broader information sessions from Memorial High School alumni – including Sanchez, who is a former valedictorian who also just graduated from Yale University.

While the 501c3 started out only servicing students in the immediate area, largely West New York and North Bergen, they are now helping high schoolers from as far away as California apply to college.

For that reason, the group decided a name change was in order and decided to make the announcement about midway through Thursday’s dinner, which had at least 100 students, teachers, and parents on hand.

“Going back to the kind of the beginning of the ceremony, we talked a little bit about this is where TCAT started, West New York, our first partner high school, Memorial, their mascot is the Memorial Tigers,” said TCAT Director of Strategy Max Kaplan.

“So, as we’ve grown, and expanded to schools now in Los Angeles, New York, other schools in New Jersey, we want to be more inclusive, so with that, I want to announce the future of TCAT: Circle Match!”

The unveiling came with confetti being blasted while the lights were down low, prompting big applause from the crowd.

Elizabeth Aguirre, the director of operations and marketing for Circle Match, said this rebranding represents students paying it forward to the communities they grew up in.

“We are matching them to the colleges of their best fit, helping them achieve their dreams,” she added.

Before the night concluded, the group also recognized students that got into their dream colleges and are beginning their first semester this fall thanks to the mentorship of Circle Match staff and volunteers.

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