Public school students who visited SUNY Buffalo State on May 9 have yet to take a college entrance exam, go to prom, or drive a car—they are eighth-graders, after all—but they did have the opportunity to sample college life for a day.
As part of the new College Readiness Program sponsored by Buffalo State’s English education program, 80 students from John F. Kennedy Middle School in the Cheektowaga-Sloan School District talked to Buffalo State students about their challenges and successes, toured the Burchfield Penney Art Center and various buildings on campus, and ate lunch in the Campbell Student Union. The JFK principal, guidance counselor, and several teachers accompanied them.
Students in the college’s English education and elementary education programs worked together to help plan the day.
“It was great to see Buffalo State students collaborating in this way across programs,” said James Cercone, assistant professor and coordinator of the English education program. “The day would not have been as successful without the elementary education students. All of the students involved are phenomenal and will be excellent classroom teachers someday.”
In surveys taken at the end of the visit, the eighth-graders indicated they loved the experience and wanted to enroll at Buffalo State.
“This wasn’t the sole purpose of the visit, but it’s important in the age of declining enrollments statewide for students to see early on all that Buffalo State has to offer,” Cercone said.
In 2013, the College Readiness Program was created as a way to support schools that provide teaching opportunities for Buffalo State teacher candidates and to create a rich learning experience for first-generation students from higher-need schools. The visit followed a pilot program in the fall when seniors from Cheektowaga Central and Alden High schools sat in on English courses, participated in creative writing exercises, and heard Buffalo State discuss the college experience.
Many of the students had already visited college campuses and made their college choices.
In comparison, Cerone said, the eighth-grade visitors were wide-eyed and excited by everything they saw and experienced—from the size of the buildings to the food offerings.
The Buffalo State Admissions Office, which hosts some 100 groups each year, focuses its efforts primarily on high school students and their parents. However, Dean Reinhart, associate director of admissions, said that bringing younger students to campus energizes them and plants the idea of attending college.
Cercone said they plan to continue the momentum from the May 9 visit by inviting the students back when they’re in 10th grade. In addition, they want to expand College Readiness to other schools in the area, focusing on students who would be the first in their families to attend college.
“For middle school students, especially from high-needs schools, college can seem like a faraway place clouded in mystery,” Cerone said. “We are trying to take away the mystery by bringing them here and allowing them to interact with our students in a meaningful way.”
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