February 18, 2014
During their freshmen year of high school, a group of Amsterdam High students were brought together in what would become a long lasting bond. Twenty-nine students were “scouted” for the Smart Scholars Early College High School Program; a program where colleges, in this case, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, partner with public school districts to provide students with the opportunity and preparation to accelerate the completion of their high school studies while earning transferable college credits at the same time.
“Teachers and guidance counselors make suggestions as to names of ninth graders to take part in the program beginning in the second half of their freshman year,” explains Effie Maglaras, Smart Scholars Coordinator. “There is then a parent meeting that introduces the program to the students and their families. The program addresses the needs of students from populations traditionally underrepresented in college and works to increase the number of students who not only graduate high school, but who also complete post-secondary education.”
The current 12th graders are the program’s first cohort, and each of them agree that they have learned valuable skills because of their participation. “Before entering the program, I was not a good test taker and horrible with my study skills,” says Marilyn Rodriguez. “With the help of college faculty, I learned how to study, how to be comfortable taking tests, and how to write college research papers. I couldn’t have gotten scores in the 90’s on these papers without all of the help provided by this program.”
Krysta Ortega agrees with her classmate, “Many of the other seniors are just starting to apply to colleges and complete all of the paperwork. Because of our involvement with the program, we started the process back in November.” The process included researching colleges and writing both personal and scholarship essays utilizing FM’s Computer Lab.
Each student in the program plans on continuing their college education and will be transferring to their new institution with as many as 36 college credits. “Before I entered this program, I would have never thought I’d be accepted to a private university,” says Rodriguez. “I’ve already been accepted to two private schools and I’m waiting to hear from a third, Long Island University. This is where I really want to attend to study nursing.”
Others’ career goals include studying in the fields of elementary education, medicine, arts and textile, and psychology. “I took Sociology with Jean Karutis (an adjunct instructor) and she inspired me to enter the psychology field,” states Gabrielle Mitchell.
Because of her participation with Smart Scholars, Rodriguez says she now knows what to expect when going off to another institution. “FM (college) is so different than high school. In high school, people keep tabs on you to make sure you get to class and finish your homework. In college, there is so much freedom. You really need to be responsible and be dedicated to your studies. I am very thankful for being given this opportunity to experience college while still in high school.”
“These ambitious students are beginning to truly see their accomplishments coming to fruition, as they are being accepted to a variety of colleges,” says Maglaras. “So far, students have been accepted to The College of St. Rose, SUNY Plattsburgh, Elmira College, Hartwick College, Manhattan College, Russell Sage College, SUNY Cobleskill, Keuka College, St. John’s University, New England College, and Fulton-Montgomery. To watch them as they plan for their futures is very exciting. They are a great group of young adults.”
After graduation, the Smart Scholars will miss each other immensely. “We’ve grown so close over the years,” says Mitchell. “You make friends with people you may never have expected. And even though we’re friends, we’re still competitive. We even fight over the front row seats in class.” The group has already made a pact to be sure to get together and hang out during school breaks.
In photo standing left to right: Smart Scholar Amsterdam High seniors attending classes at FM Carlos Mercado, Jr., Gregory Kerrick, “JoJo” Jonardy Anil, Krysta Ortega, Jennifer Alvarez, and Marieshellie Mora; Seated left to right: Program Coordinator Effie Maglaras with seniors Marilyn Rodriguez, Gabrielle Mitchell, and Samantha Waldvogel (Missing from photo: Ilenis Quinones)