2003-01-18 / Front Page

Local HS Students Can Access College

By Miriam Rosenberg

By Miriam Rosenberg

For so many young Rockaway residents today, attending college is only a dream. Whether that dream cannot be fulfilled because of low grades or because of insufficient funds to pay for the tuition for a education is not the point.

College no longer has to be just a dream for those students, however. Since 1999, The City University of New York (CUNY) and the New York City Department of Education (formally the New York City Board of Education) has been helping city high school students work to make their dreams of going to college come true with a program called College Now. Far Rockaway High School (in conjunction with York College) and Beach Channel High School (working with Kingsborough and LaGuardia Community Colleges) – are working to bring the advantages of the program to their students.

The program’s mission is to help high school students make the transition from high school to college easier by allowing them to gain practical college experience by being able take college-level courses, while at he same time giving the them the opportunity to take special classes that lets the students polish their skills so that they may be able to pass their regents, SAT’s and college entrance exams. All of this costs the students and their families nothing.

The program began at Kingborough Community College in 1984, and it became a university-wide intuitive in 1999.

"College Now is having a strong effect on the high schools and enabling the students to develop stronger reading and math skills, and do better on the standard tests in high school and graduate without remediation," said Les Raphael, Director of High School Outreach Programs at York College. "This program is funded by the state and these funds are provided so we could give students opportunities where opportunities have not existed before."

Both high schools provide students with college-level, for credit classes to prepare them for college. These credits are accepted at most any college a student might apply to.

This spring York College will be offering Far Rockaway High School seniors four classes in its Saturday Senior Credit Program. To take part in the program, high school students must have scored a 75 on the Regents or 480 on the SAT’s or they must have passed all three CUNY entrance exams. The classes being offered are History of the Modern World Since 1815, Introduction to Social Work, Environmental Biology and Introduction to African-American Studies.

"All the exams, all the requirements – it’s not a diluted class," said Raphael. "[It’s a] real college- level class. The same as York students take."

Last summer Tinni Chowdhury, a senior at Far Rockaway High School, took part in the summer for credit program at York College.

Chowdhury has taken college-level computer, art and band courses, as well as York’s Student Development course for freshmen. She talked about her experiences with The Wave.

"The [Student Development class] prepared me for what I am going to face and what I am going to do in the future," said Chowdhury, who will be a graphic design major at City Tech in the Fall. "It talks about credits, if you wanted to transfer how you would do that, what kind of work [to expect] and how you would deal with it."

Some of the for credit courses that Kingsborough offers to Beach Channel students include Behavioral Social Science and Introduction to Science and Environment. The high school also works with several other colleges in offering for credit college courses to its students. In collaboration with Queens College (also a CUNY school), Beach Channel offers for credit classes in acting or technical theater. Although it is not a CUNY college, the high school also works in conjunction with South Hampton College to offer an accelerated college entry course in chemistry known at Ace Chemistry.

"Essentially a kid, if he took the Ace Chemistry and passed, and one Kingsborough course and passed and passed three Advanced Placement courses – theoretically, he can get 15 college credits in his senior year [of high school]," said John Marcus, the Assistant Principle of English, Arts and Music at Beach Channel, as well as the College Now Program Supervisor.

At a two-year college like Kingsborough a student would have paid $1,575 to complete those same 15 credits, while at a four-year college such as York the 15 credits would have cost the student a total of $2,025. Thus the College Now student can come into college as an upper freshman, being one semester ahead of other entering freshmen, and also save quite a bit of money in the process.

With the help of York and Kingsborough respectively, both Far Rockaway and Beach Channel High Schools offers developmental, prep and review courses to help students pass the necessary five regents required for a diploma and as well as pass their SATs and college entrance exams.

Members of Francine Sertig’s U.S. History & Government regents review class at Far Rockaway High School spoke about the importance of these sessions.

"The regents review class] helps to prepare us for the regents so we understand more, and in doing this we can improve our grades," said Kaydean Brown about attending the class.

Maria Bartales shared her reasons for coming to the review class.

"I learn in class and sometimes I don’t understand something," said Bartales. "With the reviews I can go over it, and I learn better."

The statistics for SAT scores show how invaluable these classes are to the students.

"Basically we found that the kids that actually do come in and take the classes, actually do wind up scoring about 80 points higher then kids who don’t take advantage of the SAT classes," said Richard McCauley, Far Rockaway High School’s College Advisor and the liaison to the College Now program.

York College’s involvement with Far Rockaway has been especially important to the high school this year.

"This fall we were very tight [financially]," said McCauley. "We couldn’t afford the PM classes, we couldn’t afford the regents review and York stepped in and they helped us tremendously. They allowed us to tailor make a program so that we can meet the needs of our students to help them succeed here and go on to higher education."

While both high schools provide college credit courses and prep courses, Beach Channel (in collaboration with LaGuardia Community College) is in its third year of being one of three Queens high schools to be taking part in the College Now Pilot program.

The Pilot Program starts working with students in their freshman year and continues through their senior year and graduation from high school.

When we started the Pilot Program, we started with 100 freshmen and those students are now juniors," said Marcus.

Beach Channel received funding of $39,000 for each of the last three years for the pilot. The original monies covered costs for a guidance counselor, an extra teacher, necessities such as books and 100 students.

"The way we choose the kids, is that they would be average or above in one area and they would be deficient in either English or math," continued Marcus. "Not low level, but slightly below level in English or math."

The students in the program get extra classes, or double classes in such courses as English and Math as they go through the first couple of years of the pilot. In the tenth grade, for example, Beach Channel block programs double math and double social studies.

"We found in last year’s group, some of the students coming from the middle schools, had no certified math teacher – it had been a series of substitutes," explained Marcus. Many of our students were really at a disadvantage. So we used the money to offer double classes in math. CUNY and the Board of Education collaborate in paying for [these classes]."

Part of LaGuardia’s role is this pilot was their help in designing the program for the students at Beach Channel. Students also travel to LaGuardia on Saturdays for classes in things such as puppet making and computer website building. There is also a college-level Humanities course that all the students in the pilot take in their junior year.

"The students get used to being with college kids," said Marcus. "They tend to get used to it and they start to expect to go to college."

As a matter of fact, Marcus has high hopes for this first group of College Now Pilot Program students who will graduate next year.

"We feel like, as a pilot, this group will be successful compared to freshmen who just enter and don’t get this support," said Marcus, who believes that a greater percentage will accepted to a four-year college.

The numbers seem to bear out his optimism. For the students in this first pilot, 93 percent passed their biology regents and 80 percent of sophomores passed their math regents.

Robert Pero, the Associate Director of the College Now program at Kingsborough Community College, talked about some of the studies that have shown the positive effects of the College Now program on its students.

"There have been some studies done that show that students that take part in College Now developmental classes come into college needing less developmental course work than students who come to college without having participated in College Now," said Pero.

Pero also pointed out that some studies also show that the College Now students usually make better transitions from high school to college because of having experienced college-level work, will graduate college quicker and may also have a higher college GPA than those who weren’t part of the program.

Far Rockaway’s Tinni Chowdhury reflected on her lifelong ambition to attend college since the age of three.

"When I was three years old and in third grade, I actually knew I was going to go to college," she said. "I have this thing about going to college. It’s like a dream for me. Every little thing I do is getting me closer to that goal of mine. I’m doing everything I can to get closer [to that goal]."

For Tinni and other students like her, College Now is sure to make a lot of dreams realities.

Students and parents are encouraged to check out the College Now website, www.collegenow.cuny.edu/, for more information on the program.

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