More than 50 high-achieving high school students who come from low-income families spent two weeks on campus this month as part of the New Jersey SEEDS (Scholars, Educators, Excellence, Dedication and Success) College Preparatory Program. The program, which concluded on July 11, fully immerses the students in college life while providing them with guidance and advice on the college admissions process as they prepare to embark on their own college endeavors.
“This is a real partnership between SEEDS and Hobart and William Smith, in large part due to the Colleges’ hospitality,” said NJ SEEDS Director of Education and Guidance Alan Heaps. “This program makes a difference in the lives of students, and we thank HWS for all its support.”
For the two weeks, the students took a full course load, lived in residence halls, ate in the Saga Dining Hall, and interacted with faculty members. For many of the students, who are rising juniors and seniors from either Orange High School or Trenton Central High School, their two weeks spent on campus proved to be an eye-opening experience that gave them their first glimpse into college life.
“I like being able to explore campus,” said Lounie Germain, a rising senior from Orange High School, who hopes to pursue biochemistry at Barnard University. “The freedom of going to classes and being a college student is one of my favorite parts. This is my third year with SEEDS, and as a senior it’s more like a college experience.”
This year, students took courses in math, science, English and art, participating in courses such as algebra, chemistry, forensic science and theatre art. The program also introduced a new combined English/writing course in which juniors and seniors were mixed together in three cohorts of about 17 students each. The course, which was taught by Adjunct Instructor of Writing and Rhetoric Elizabeth Wells and Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Vinita Prabhakar, focused on short story analysis, discussions and free writing time with the goal of having students complete their college admissions essay. For many students, this was one of the most beneficial aspects of the program.
“The English/writing course is my favorite and is really helpful,” said Trenton Central High School rising senior Wilmarilys Velazques. “We’re working on our personal statements, and they help us reflect on our lives and pinpoint moments and experiences in our lives to include in our personal statements. The faculty helps us discover things we don’t even know about ourselves, making us dig down deep to discover new things that can be incorporated in our essays.”
The program also introduced a new “College 101” course, which focused on college admissions, financial aid, scholarships and making smart decisions on campus. The course aimed to teach students to advocate for themselves during the college admissions process as well as after they arrive on their new campuses. This course also proved to be an invaluable experience for many of the students who will be first-generation college students.
“This program is helpful for students coming from low-income and minority households,” Velzazques added. “Most of our parents have never applied to college and don’t know about the process, and neither do we. SEEDS really helps open our eyes to the entire process.”
Melissa Montoya, a SEEDS graduate who is entering her senior year at Lehigh University and returned this summer to be a student advisor for current scholars, knows from experience just how instrumental the SEEDS program is for students navigating the college admissions process.
“Coming from a minority and disadvantaged background, SEEDS provided me with all I needed to pursue a college degree,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without SEEDS. They did so much for me, out of appreciation I thought it was the least I could do to come back and help out as a student advisor.”
The Summer Collegiate Experience is just one component of the College Preparatory Program, which requires students to attend the summer program at HWS each year, as well as take classes every Saturday during the school year and participate in other leadership and college preparatory activities. Each year, many SEEDS graduates go on to some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, including Hobart and William Smith. Several students this year took advantage of the opportunity to conduct an admissions interview with HWS staff in hopes of joining the three SEEDS graduates currently enrolled at the Colleges and one matriculating in the fall.
The program is made possible each year in large part due to the continous participation of HWS faculty and endorsement by alums. HWS Trustee J. Paul Hellstrom Jr. ’64 has been an advocate for the program since its start, playing an integral role in connecting the SEEDS program with HWS and ensuring its success year after year.
For more information on the program, visit the NJ SEEDS website at: http://njseeds.org/