Giving Students a Leg Up on Their College Careers

The statistics are as startling as they are cautionary: First-generation college-bound students from low-income families are four times more likely than their peers to drop out of school in their first academic year.

  • Provost Allan Weatherwax welcomes students from Abbott Lawrence Academy at their summer orientati...
    Provost Allan Weatherwax welcomes students from Abbott Lawrence Academy at their summer orientation program.

Within six years, nearly nine in 10 students of this demographic leave school without a degree.

To help combat this problem, Merrimack is partnering with the Lawrence Public Schools on a groundbreaking program designed to expose academically promising high-school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to college-level courses, taught by college faculty, on a college campus.

About 60 juniors from Abbott Lawrence Academy exam school will participate in the new program during the 2017-18 academic year, said School of Education and Social Policy Dean Isabelle Cherney, who is organizing the program. The students will take one semester each of introductory biology and American government, in addition to their regular high-school classes.

“Bringing access to college significantly increases the likelihood of kids staying in college, finishing college and going on to productive lives,” Cherney said.

The collaborative program will give the students early exposure to the college experience and help them build the skills they’ll need to succeed at the next stage of their academic careers. The credits they earn at Merrimack will give them a head start at college, greatly increasing their odds of graduating and achieving financial independence.

In June, the students came to Merrimack to tour the campus, meet with professors and get their ID cards.

“I want you to love it here,” Provost Allan Weatherwax told the students who filed into the Rogers Center for the Arts. “I want you to start to learn what it means to be a college student.”

Kyannah Hernandez, of South Lawrence, was impressed by what she saw and heard.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, because I want to get a good education and then build off that to launch myself into a successful career,” she said.

By Office of Communications
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