Local Students Graduate from MCC STARS Program

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Graduates of the STARS Progam
Manchester, CT – September 1, 2012 . . . Take it from Keiocha Ferreira and Chardell Hawley: college is a lot of work, but it is totally worth it.

They should know. Both 18-year-old high school grads have just finished more than six weeks of focused study that they believe – no, that they know – will enable them to succeed as freshmen at Manchester Community College.

Keiocha and Chardell are among 26 graduates of MCC’s Summer Training and Academic Retention Service (STARS) program – an intense summer of reading, writing, math and cultural enrichment designed to prepare them for a rewarding college career.

Even with college classes yet to begin, it is already paying off, they say.

Keiocha, from Hartford, has learned something she admits she didn’t appreciate in high school: “If you put in the work, you can get a good grade.” In six weeks of applied effort, she was able improve her English performance by an entire grade level -- enough to qualify for college-level English.

Chardell, from East Hartford, says she sees “a big difference” in her vocabulary, writing and study skills. At the beginning of the summer she was worried about how she would do in college, she said.

Now she and Keiocha are not just eager to begin - they are completely thrilled.

Their excitement and confidence is exactly what the program is trying to inspire in its students, says Jason Scappaticci, MCC’s Coordinator of Transitional Programs.

The STARS program addresses a problem that is all too common to Connecticut community colleges and others all over America. That is, many of the students who arrive as freshmen need remedial work in language arts, math or both. Statistically, these students are much less likely to stay in college and leave with a degree.

STARS is a way for them to beat the odds. It is aimed specifically at under-prepared students who are financially disadvantaged and the first generation in their family to seek a college degree.

It is completely free.

With twice as many applicants as spaces in the program, “We try to find the students with the right attitude,” Scappaticci says. Each applicant must write a brief explanation of why he or she wants to be in the program and then is personally interviewed. When a student is accepted, the college covers the cost of tuition, books, supplies, breakfast and lunch, admission to special cultural programs and even bus fare to and from home.

This year, for the first time, the program has expanded its curriculum to include math.

At the start of the program, each student is administered a pre-admission assessment test. After a second round of tests at the end of the program this year, nearly half will have advanced one level in English, Scappaticci said. A handful, like Keiocha, will no longer need remedial help and will move directly to college-level work.

The addition of a new math program using so-called “intelligent software” is also boosting some STARS students beyond the need of remediation. Because the program allows each student to move at his or her own pace, one student actually completed his remedial and college-level math class, Scappaticci said.

During the course of their summer, students talk to counselors about their goals and career plans. In every instance, students who complete the STARS program enter their freshman year at MCC with four college credits – three for academic work and one more for study-skill training.

Of course students from financially strapped families often have had limited exposure to cultural experiences, and STARS addresses that by exposing its students to a variety of field trips each Friday.

This year they visited the Wadsworth Atheneum and Mark Twain House in Hartford; the mansions of Newport, R.I.; Ellis Island in New York and took in a performance of “Annie” at the Warner Theatre in Torrington.

Each trip is woven into the curriculum through student reading, student essays and lectures from teachers on themes relevant to their studies: diversity and class in America, for example.

“Annie” rated as Keiocha’s favorite part of the entire program. She had never been to a musical theater performance before, and “it opened my eyes.”

STARS students get another big benefit from the program, too: their classmates.

STARS students tend to bond with each other and stick together throughout their time at MCC, Scappaticci said. And friends with the right character – those who appreciate the value of an education and what it takes to succeed in college -- are exactly the kind who will support each other and get the most out of college.
Keiocha and Chardell, in fact, have made a pact to do so.
It was inspired by a book their English professor, Wanda Haynes, required them to read. Entitled “The Pact”, it is about three young African-American men who promised each other they would overcome poverty and the tough streets of Newark, N.J., to someday become doctors -- and did.

For general information about the STARS program, please call or email Jason Scappaticci at 860-512-3224 or Linda Devlin at 860-512-3346.

Students of any age who possess the desire to pursue higher education are welcome at Manchester Community College. MCC is proud of its academic excellence, new facilities, flexible schedules, small classes, low tuition and faculty with both academic and “real world” credentials. The college offers over 60 programs, transfer options, financial aid and scholarships, as well as access to baccalaureate degrees through guaranteed admissions programs with several universities. MCC is situated on a park-like campus and is easily accessible from I-84.

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News Item Posted On: September 11, 2012
For Additional Information Contact: Bonnie Willgoos at 860-512-2928