|04-02-09-Local students get a taste of out-of-state college life|
|Written by Administrator|
|Thursday, April 02, 2009|
Local students get a taste of out-of-state college life
by Marisol Rodríguez
Article appended 04-06-09
Northern Manhattan high school juniors, like high school juniors nation-wide, have already begun preparing to make one of the most important decisions of their lives: choosing a college.
With a large working-class Latino population, Northern Manhattan is a neighborhood full of students that often opt for local and affordable New York colleges and universities.
However organizations like Children’s Arts & Science Workshops are helping this student population find higher education opportunities outside of New York State.
“Most of our students don’t have the chance to see colleges outside of where they live so we try to take them on trips out of state so they can start to see what different college environments look like,” said In-school Youth Program Senior Counselor Rafael Aponte. “It’s good for the students to see what else is attainable outside of the city limits.”
Aponte and fellow ISY program staff recently took a group of 23 juniors on a three-day college road trip to the Philadelphia area, where they visited Temple University, Drexel University, Villanova University, University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University-Abington.
Founded in 2001, the ISY program currently services over 200 juniors and seniors, offering college preparation workshops, including SAT prep, and helping students find youth summer employment opportunities.
Children’s Arts & Science Workshops (CASW), which houses the program in its Northern Manhattan offices on Broadway and W. 181st Street, was founded in 1968 by local parents who created art and music workshops to keep their children occupied during the historic United Federation of Teachers’ strike that lasted 36 days.
Aponte said one of the primary focuses of the ISY program is to dispel myths students may have concerning the out-of-state college experience, such as “I won’t be able to pay for college” and/or “there’s no one that looks like me at those colleges.”
Another significant concern for the students is communicating to their parents that they want to go away to school.
“Most of [the student’s] fear comes from how they are going to make their parents feel comfortable with the idea of going away to college period,” said ISY program director Jeffrey Avila.
Angie Nuñez, an ISY program participant who went on the Philadelphia college trip, enjoyed the colleges she visited, but plans to attend a college in New York City, partially because of pressure from her parents.
“I’m thinking of staying. It’s probably not going to be the same experience, but my parents don’t want me to leave, and even still, I kind of like the city,” said Nuñez. “Everything is here; this is where I grew up.”
Despite parent influence there are many students who are set on attending an out-of-state school, such as ISY participant Marlene Abreu.
“I don’t want to stay home for college because I think if I stay home I will not be independent enough to keep on going in life,” said Abreu.
ISY staff agrees that the college road trips are perhaps the most important part of encouraging students to pursue higher education out of state. According to Wilson Cano, CASW deputy director, the out-of-state college visits are also what makes the ISY program unique.
“I’ve been surprised working here how many kids really don’t leave the borough, or some of them even their neighborhood, for years at a time,” said Cano. “I think it’s important to expose these students to the outside world and let them know that they can go to new places and try new things and it will make them better in the long run.”
Another college trip is in the works for April, during which students will visit universities in Washington D.C. and North Carolina, including George Washington and Duke Universities.
ISY academic counselor Wilson Zorrilla is one of the primary organizers of the college trips. According to Zorrilla the students went through a range of emotions on the Philadelphia trip, becoming enthused anew every time they visited a different university.
“The students tend to favor the schools they get to sleep in,” said Zorrilla. On this trip those schools were Villanova and Pennsylvania State University-Abington.
After the trip some teens were certain about where they wanted to apply. For Jeremy Adames it is Villanova University.
“As soon as I got [to Villanova], I felt at home. The students were really friendly,” said Adames, who ended up dorming with a former ISY participant who is now a freshman at the prestigious Catholic university.
Despite the college decision students ultimately make, the ISY college trips are an opportunity for local youth to leave their comfort zone, both physically and emotionally, and experience a taste of the out-of-state college life. Visiting top tier universities like Villanova and Temple can even motivate students to take their academics more seriously.
“It amazes me that on every trip there’s always students that really pull something away,” said Aponte. “Whether it’s a student being on campus saying, ‘I feel good here; this is the school I want to go to’ or ‘I need to really step it up now because I really want to be here.’”
Article Appended 04-06-09
The Web site for Children's Arts and Science Workshops is http://www.caswkids.org/