With the new academic semester about to begin, Mount Wachusett Community College is welcoming its largest spring cohort of Gateway to College students to campus.
The free dual-enrollment program, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, is open to Massachusetts residents ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or experienced a setback due to health or personal reasons. Home schooled students are also eligible to enroll in the program, which allows students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and college credits toward an academic degree or certificate.
“I’m excited to be surrounded by people who have priorities,” said Kali Stetson, 16, of Orange, one of 27 new Gateway students from throughout central and north central Massachusetts who will begin classes on January 20.
During the week of January 11, the cohort attended a three-day orientation which included a “Been there, done that!” panel presentation with 12 current Gateway students and recent graduates; information sessions on technology, student support services and resources, and campus clubs and activities; campus and library tours; a viewing of the film “Homeless to Harvard: the Liz Murray Story,” and an indoor ropes course at Cottage Hill Academy in Baldwinville.
A national program that began in 2000 in Portland, OR, Gateway to College is now offered at 43 colleges in 23 states. MWCC’s Gateway to College program, now in its 10th year, was the first program established in New England and now serves nearly 100 students each year.
The program provides students with full access to campus resources and a dedicated resource specialist for academic advising counseling, tutoring and instructional support. School choice funding covers the cost of tuition and fees. Students also receive free textbooks during their first semester and are eligible to continue receiving free textbooks if they earn a grade point average of 3.0 or above.
“Students come here for a variety of reasons,” said MWCC Senior Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn. “Some come for the environment – it’s a different environment than high school and allows them more flexibility with their time and schedules. Others come in due to medical issues, or they have been home schooled and this is their first formal classroom experience. Some students want to have that academic rigor. They enroll as a cohort and we create a community within the college for them. They take some courses together when they are starting out, then continue on with a major of their choice.”
“I really was inspired to further my education and the Gateway program provides a great opportunity,” said current student Manny Corbeil, 19, of Baldwinville. After he graduates this spring with an associate degree in liberal arts & sciences and academic certificates in business administration and small business management, he plans to transfer to a four-year college or university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
“I like everything about Gateway and the college experience,” said Mariah Courtemanche of Orange, who plans to become a certified nurse assistant and then continue her education to become a registered nurse. The flexibility of a college schedule allows her better balance family time with her two-year-old daughter and a part-time job, she said. “I can work and spend time with my daughter.”
This spring, MWCC will begin hosting information sessions for students interested in enrolling in the Gateway to College program for the fall 2016 semester. For more information, visit mwcc.edu/gateway or call 978-630-9248.