Based on mandates from local elected officials, CDI will not be serving Scholars onsite until further notice. Staff are continuing to serve Scholars virtually and can be reached via phone and email.

We will post any late breaking updates on our operating status on our website. Thank you.

Click Here for local resources for scholars and families

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Our Story

In 2005, Nina Marks, an educator with more than 30 years of experience, founded Collegiate Directions with her husband Jonathan. They saw that bright, motivated students from low-income households lacked the support needed in order to graduate from college. Believing that a college path should be available to these young adults, the Markses developed a program to help them navigate financial, academic, and cultural obstacles.

Nina and her team began building the program, initiating strong connections with Montgomery County public schools, community partners, and college admissions offices that wanted to support these high-achieving future graduates.  From the beginning, the CDI program has provided invaluable services like college and financial aid counseling, test preparation, and campus transition support – working with Scholars and their families through college graduation.

CDI experienced rapid and successful growth, and began offering professional development to other schools that work with low-income, first-generation students. CDI has worked with groups across the region, including DC Prep and Baltimore City Public Schools.

icon-cap-diplomaOnly 11% of low-income students enrolled in college will graduate.

icon-college97% of CDI Scholars graduate from college, and the majority of them are employed in their field or moving on to a graduate program.


43% of students who grow up in poverty remain in poverty as an adult. A college education is correlated with higher lifetime earnings, economic security, and general wellbeing.

Julia Ngoc Nguyen

Julia moved from Vietnam to the United States when she was 10 years old. She was bullied in school and told she would end up working in a nail salon.  With the assistance of CDI and our amazing donors, Julia graduated from Goucher College with a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology. In 2015, she began working as a clinical research assistant at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine.

“CDI basically opened up my mind to new possibility and perspectives…Because of CDI, the person that I am today is more open-minded and unafraid to explore uncharted territories.”

Meet Our Scholars

You can help students like Julia!

Donations to the CDI Scholars Program are what make these life-changing opportunities possible.

Donate Now


By 2020, 65% of jobs will require post-secondary education or training beyond high school.

The six-plus years we spend with every CDI Scholar—from 10th grade through college graduation—are the beginning of a journey that we are honored to be a part of.

The success rate of our Scholars is nothing short of spectacular, and we couldn’t do it without the support and caring of our sponsors. If you’d like to join the CDI family and become a part of changing young lives, please get in touch with our team. We’d love the chance to show you the impact you can make.

Join the CDI Family