College prep class sparks students' interest
It didn't take long for Rachel Kish to see changes in the high school students she tutored during a new college prep class at Carlow University.
Teenagers who spent the first day of their eight-week business class with their heads down on their desks, not really paying attention, started to show interest as the summer progressed, Kish, a junior at Carlow, said.
“It was really great to be able to teach them what it was like to be in a college setting,” she said. “I really liked watching the students grow up during the eight-week period.”
The class, a collaboration of Carlow and the Bloomfield-based nonprofit Neighborhood Learning Alliance, served as a college crash course for 22 Pittsburgh Public Schools students. Each was expected to attend class and tutoring sessions, research and write papers, and prepare for a two-hour final on Thursday morning, which was the culmination of the class, taught by Carlow University associate Professor Howard A. Stern.
“Dr. Stern of course did not take it easy,” D'ontae Carter, 16, of Fineview said. “He treated us like regular college students, as freshmen students coming into a new year of class.
“It changed my work ethic.”
Stern said he was “inspired” by watching the students thrive as they learned how to navigate the collegiate world's libraries, presentations and study habits, while mastering the course's source material.
“What we have found is that retention is one of the biggest problems for incoming freshmen, and one of the reasons retention is so poor is that students don't realize these resources are available to them.”
Organizers said each student completed the course. Passing earned them college credits, a renewable $2,000 scholarship should they choose to attend Carlow, and confidence in their ability to succeed in higher education, organizers said.
Carter's mother, Michelle Carter, 39, said his writing improved as he worked on papers. She hopes that translates to improvement in his English class in high school next year, and helps him one day to attend a university where he wants to play baseball or join band.
Organizers hope to expand the program next summer.
“I think aspiration is what it's all about for me,” said Stephen MacIsaac, executive director at Neighborhood Learning Alliance. “When they go to high school next year, what a cool thing it is for them to know that they're going to be able to pass college classes.”
Michael Walton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-380-5627 or firstname.lastname@example.org.