The St. Paul School District and Saint Paul College now are part of a national initiative giving high school dropouts and at-risk students help in earning diplomas -- and college credits.

This year, the Gateway to College program serves 52 students between the ages of 16 and 20, with 13 of them taking college-level courses at Saint Paul College.

"Many students have life circumstances that prevented them from succeeding before," Superintendent Valeria Silva said in a news release. "Gateway to College will be an important part of our district's strategy to serve all of our students effectively."

As part of the program, students receive one-on-one advising and support from teachers who are on special assignment who act as coaches and mentors.

The effort is made possible through a contract between the district and the Gateway to College National Network, and is being funded with help from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Corporation for National and Community Service's Social Innovation Fund and the Travelers Foundation.

There are 42 Gateway to College programs across the U.S.