Students Reach College Aspirations Thanks to University of Success

Aug 6, 2012

Justin Davis is a sophomore at Wilkes University pursuing a career in pharmacy. If not for the help of The University of Scranton’s University of Success, Davis said he might not be on such a promising path.

“I owe my career up to this point to the University of Success,” Davis said. “I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the program.”

Margaret Loughney, director of the University of Success at The University of Scranton, said the program is designed to prepare high school students who are typically unrepresented on college campuses, such as first-generation students and students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, for higher education.

“These are students who are targeted by their guidance counselors as bright students who have the potential [for college] but need a helping hand,” Loughney said.

Loughney said the program, which has run for 17 years, begins during the summer before the participants’ freshman year in high school. The 20 chosen applicants go through a two-week summer “academy” at The University of Scranton. The program then continues one Saturday a month for the rest of the students’ high-school careers. The program, offered free of charge to participants, is funded almost entirely by corporate and foundation grants. Sponsors are the Prudential Foundation, the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund,  Met Life Foundation, Wells Fargo, the Charles Frueauff Foundation and Overlook Estate Foundation.

Loughney said the University of Success focuses on improving skills necessary to gain admission to and succeed in college, including study skills, public speaking, SAT prep and math and science enrichment courses. Loughney said the program also exposes students to potential career paths and volunteer opportunities. Students in the summer academy volunteered at St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen and the Leahy Clinic for the Uninsured.

Loughney said the program also informs parents on financial aid and other things they need to know about college.

“Parents are at a big disadvantage if they don’t know the system,” Loughney said. “There are parents who say, ‘I can’t afford to send my kid to college,’ and I say, ‘You can’t afford not to send them’.”

Tyler Brady, a student at Mid Valley High School, is one of the incoming freshmen for the program’s newest group. Brady, who is considering studying law in college, said he already feels he has learned a lot, “not just academically but socially,” and is excited for what lies ahead.

“It taught me a lot about myself,” Brady said. “The counselors were a big part of the experience … It opens up a lot of doors.”

Jamary Gil, a student at Scranton High School and another member of the University of Success’ incoming class, said she is grateful for this opportunity.

“It’s a huge honor being at The University of Scranton,” Gil said. “It’s an honor for (the program counselors) to help prepare me for college.”

Gil, who wants to study to become a physical therapist, said so far her most enjoyable experience with the University of Success is the rope course at Pocono Environmental Education Center.

“It was built around the philosophy of life,” Gil said. “It taught me how to keep your head up and work together with a team and be like a family.”

Gil said this sense of teamwork and family reflects what University of Success teaches.

“We’re all striving for the same thing here,” Gil said.

Davis felt his experience with the University of Success was so impactful, he decided to come back as a camp counselor for the two-week summer academy. Davis said he loved watching the group become closer and bond over the weeks.

“To see them now from where they started – they’re like a family,” Davis said.

Davis said he hopes the participants make the most of the resources and opportunities available to them.

“I enjoy being a counselor because I get to tell [the students] this does have a huge impact on your life,” Davis said. “I don’t think these opportunities would have been available to me had I not been in this program.”

University of Success

Twenty students participated in The University of Scranton’s University of Success Summer Institute. Students attending the Summer Institute participated in hands on projects, presentations and field trips to develop skills needed to successfully finish high school and gain acceptance to college. Pictured, front row, from left are, representing The University of Scranton Maria Vital, bilingual administrative assistant at the Leahy Community Health and Family Center and Andrea Mantione, director of the Leahy Community Health and Family Center; Henry Dominguez, Scranton; Jamil K. Islam, Scranton; Jamary Gil, Scranton; Zachary Acosta, East Stroudsburg; Xavier Harris, Scranton; and Margaret Loughney, precollege program director. Second row from left are Daniel Aguirre, Scranton; Mecca Hunt, Scranton; Austin Burke, Mehoopany; and Isabel Alejandro, Tannersville. Third row from left are Lorran Rodrigues, Clarks Summit; Alexandria Pollock, Kingsley; Coral Delosantos, Carbondale; and Aliyah Lynn Ware, Dickson City. Fourth row from left are Mariah Berry, Tunkhannock; Jacquelyn Gillott Weatherly; and Kassidy Potter, Susquehanna. Fifth row from left are Anthony Gigliotti, Carbondale; Tyler Brady, Dickson City; Sean Westawski, Hanover Township; and Blake Reed of Kingsley. Sixth row are Robert Cermignaro, camp counselor; Kendrick Monastine, camp counselor; Erin Harrington, assistant teacher; Donna Novicki, lead teacher; Kelly Judge, camp counselor; Justin Davis, camp counselor; and Amanda Wark, head counselor.
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