Strive for College also aims to help students graduate with the least amount of student loan debt possible, ensuring stronger graduation rates and enhancing the college experience. With scholarships and financial aid, 40 percent of Strive students attend four-year colleges without having to come out of pocket for their tuition -- compared with 32 percent of low-income college students nationwide.
Beginning this spring, mentors and mentees will be able to communicate and track progress over the interactive "UStrive" community website. The social network will allow students to track the curriculum's calendar and see when their peers complete major steps in the application process. Participants can make suggestions and bookmark items of interest for others.
Carter has found that the social component helps students stay on track with their goals.
"It creates peer pressure, but of a rare, positive kind. As they see one another looking at great universities and trying to aim for great financial aid packages, than their peers, their friends also say, 'If you can do that, I can, too.' And they start to raise their goals," he said. "It's a really powerful process in which you're building a culture of achievement in the schools."
It's a culture that helped Shanna Brancato raise her own academic ambitions. The former foster child had never considered college as part of her future when she was encouraged to attend her first Strive for College session in her junior year of high school.
"I've never really thought of myself as the greatest student. College was not on my mind," she said. "Now I'm a sophomore at San Jose State University. My full tuition is covered, and I'm mentoring a high school student."
Many former mentees, like Brancato, become Strive for College mentors.
"It's that 'paying it forward' mentality that is building a Strive movement that will solve this problem, I think, within the next decade," Carter said.
Carter graduated from college in 2010 and has devoted himself full-time to his nonprofit. Strive for College now has 12 university chapters working in 15 high schools nationwide, and it is planning to launch eight more chapters this year.
"The more we grow, the more students we help, the greater our impact, the bigger our movement," Carter said. "We'll go from changing hundreds to thousands of lives, to changing hundreds of thousands, and some day soon, even millions.
"I'm so sure this will happen, because I believe in our generation. I know our mentors. I know the students we serve. And I know that together we are going to solve this problem."
Want to get involved? Check out the Strive for College website at www.striveforcollege.org and see how to help.