As a former President of Beloit College (Wisconsin) and Union College, Roger Hull saw many college freshmen come to campus, making their own way in the world by embarking on an adventure in higher education. Now he watches as third-graders hop off the school bus twice a week which takes them to a nearby college campus. The latest college campus to welcome third-graders to campus as part of Hull's Help Yourself Foundation is Schenectady Community College. SCCC is the first community college to partner with Hull on the innovative program.
Twice a week, 24 third-graders from the International Charter School of Schenectady and Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region will visit SCCC to conduct science experiments and learn from a science-based curriculum taught by Danielle Rossner (a third- and fourth-grade teacher at the International Charter School of Schenectady) and Melanie Louise Uebele (Operation SMART Program Specialist at Girls Inc.). The after-school academy will begin with an orientation for all the students on the SCCC campus on Monday, Oct. 29, 2007 at 3:30 p.m.
Students in third to fifth grade are selected for the academy by administrators in their schools. The goal is to involve low-income students with academic promise who have limited resources. Hull's plan is to engage students in learning at an early age, expose them to a nearby college campus thereby making the idea of college a reality for many students. There are currently four academies across the country.
Hull saw this strategy work after developing a similar academy in Beloit. Of the children who participated, 41 percent stayed with the program through elementary, middle and high school, and 95 percent of them went on
to college. "As I saw in those first days at Beloit in 1989, the moment grade schoolers set foot on campus, college becomes part of their future. their grades and test results improve... Ask any of these students where they go to school and they will answer with the name of the college, not their grade school," Hull explained.
Hull and SCCC President Gabe Basil would then like to see those students involved in the Help Yourself Academy become students in the SCCC Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP). When the students enter sixth grade, they would then join LPP, a pre-college program that provides academic intervention, career exploration and decision making skills training for students in sixth through 12th grad. SCCC has offered the program to students in Schenectady city middle schools and Schenectady High School since 1990. Jennifer Lawrence is the director of the program and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Siena College and a Master's degree of Social Work in Social Work Administration from Fordham University.
"Our mission is lifelong learning and these academies exemplify that philosophy. It will bring children to SCCC at a young age, introducing them to a college campus and creating a path for them to higher education," Basil said.
The academy at SCCC will include third-graders this year and will add a new class of third-graders each year. The benefits for youngsters and society as a whole are great, Hull said. "If the horizons of third-graders can be broadened, if we can get to them before it is too late, the ramifications, for them, for our colleges, for our economy, for our nation, are great," he said.