Instead of sleeping in or catching some rays on a beach, close to 100 high school seniors have been spending their days in a college classroom.
Thanks to a new program from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), select high school seniors from Warwick, Cranston and Providence were given the opportunity to take two college courses at the Providence campus of CCRI at no cost to them.
One course, Foundations in Math, will help students with basic math skills and hopefully prove beneficial when the students retake the NECAP [New England Common Assessment Program] in the fall. The second is College Success, which is designed to help students develop the skills they need to enter college, including public speaking, time management, research and writing.
RIDE Director of the Office of Multiple Pathways Sharon Lee, who oversees the program along with Marilyn Matzko, said the department has been looking to create a summer success program to expose high school seniors to the college experience for some time, and this program will also provide students with up to six college credits.
The program, which runs from July 8 to Aug. 9, occurs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students take one class in the morning and another in the afternoon; each is two and a half hours long with a short break.
According to Lee, 75 percent of high school graduates who attend CCRI need to take a remedial math course. Through this program, students who wish to attend CCRI after high school would already have those credits through taking Foundations in Math.
Not only does this course help students experience college level courses, but also it could help them improve their NECAP scores. Students in the program all received a 1 on their NECAP exam last fall.
“The math should help them do better on NECAP,” said Lee.
The program also provides for students to take the ACCUPLACER exam, which is an accepted alternative exam for the NECAP graduation requirement.
“They take the ACCUPLACER before and after the course,” said Lee, adding that a score can be banked and submitted after students take the NECAP in October.
The three credits from the College Success course are transferable to any college, but the three math credits only apply at CCRI.
By taking advantage of the program, students can save between $2,000 and $3,000 in college tuition. RIDE is picking up the bill for the program, which includes the cost of the instructors’ pay, books, transportation, the ACCUPLACER and lunch.
School bus transportation was provided for the eight Cranston students and 12 Warwick students, while the remaining Providence students took advantage of RIPTA service.
Lee said $100,000 was budgeted for the program for 200 students. Since only 100 participated, there will be funds left over.
“The books were really expensive,” said Lee, adding that had they needed to buy 200 students two books each, it would have cost 40 percent of the budget. They hope to collect the books from most students at the conclusion of the program and use them again next year.
Lee said some professors were hesitant about the program in the beginning, but that is not the case now.
“The instructors are saying they enjoy it,” said Lee, adding that many have already requested to come back next year.
An added benefit of this program is that students are not left alone at the CCRI campus. Each district sends a site supervisor to provide a friendly and consistent face.
“I’ve been here to support the Warwick students,” said Denise Bilideau, technology applications assessments coordinator for Warwick Schools who also oversees the diploma system. “It’s really important they see someone here,”
Bilideau has also been involved in organizing this program and selecting the 12 Warwick students who are participating.
“It took quite a bit of organizing,” said Bilideau.
An adult in their school recommended all of the students for the program. Together with Warwick Director of Secondary Education Dennis Mullen, Bilideau said they looked for a specific kind of student.
“We looked for a student that may want to go to CCRI, might have done well in math class but not on the NECAP and a student that was motivated,” explained Bilideau.
They also looked for students who received a 1 on the NECAP last fall so they can work to improve their score this year.
Bilideau isn’t just monitoring the students at CCRI’s campus; she offers a study group for the Warwick students in her office at Pilgrim High School on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“It has been great for me to work with them,” said Bilideau. “If it takes a little bit more of my time, I think it’s worth it.”
Bilideau said that she has seen the students’ confidence grow as well as their knowledge and work ethic.
“It’s being on a college campus, getting the college experience,” said Bilideau.
She also applauded the efforts of the course instructors.
“CCRI professors were chosen by the college administration for their ability to work with younger students,” said Bilideau of the 12 professors. “It’s been a learning experience for them, too.”
Professor Nick Figueroa is teaching the College Success course for the program.
“Personally, I wish I would have had this course,” said Figueroa. “It will get them prepared for what they will face.”
He said it prepares the students for the rigor of a college course, teaches them time management and gives them a sense of independence.
Figueroa has had his students working on job interview preparation, speaking in front of the class about their background and even presenting a midterm on their future career goals.
“It gave me more confidence in doing everything,” said Sarah Sagnella, a senior from Toll Gate High School. “It helped me write stories and learn how to be a better college student.”
Although she is not a fan of math, Sagnella also sees the benefit of the math course she is taking.
“It is just the basics and I don’t learn the basics through my regular school,” she said.
Cranston High School West senior Audrey Coningford said the best part of the program is having the chance to experience college.
“The freedom that we have,” said Coningford. “The workload also helps you prepare for what you will have in college.”
Nikki Welliver is going to enter her senior year at Pilgrim High School this fall and she said this class has helped her feel more prepared for the future.
“There’s nothing we can’t handle,” said Welliver. “It’s a worthwhile experience; it’s very different from high school.”
“If I didn’t do this, I would forget everything,” added Sagnella.
Sagnella has taken the ACCUPLACER and actually felt it was harder than the NECAP assessment, but she is confident with this program that she will be able to reach the graduation requirements.
“And it’s three college credits, so it’s worth it,” she said.
Bilideau said she is very pleased with the program and the reaction from the students she works with. She and Lee both believe the program will grow and continue next year. They hope to have 200 students participating in Summer 2014.