Earlier this month, 50 Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) students in grades 6, 7, and 8 from the Salemwood School in Malden took a field trip to the School of Education, and got their first glimpse at college life.
The visit began with a welcome from Caysie Carter, Director of Undergraduate Student Services, who greeted the students and shared her own experiences as a college student.
“Most of our students have parents who have not attended college—especially in the U.S.—and so they don’t really know much about college and what it takes to get into college,” Molly Ross said. Ms. Ross teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) in grades five through eight.
“I have had a lot of students talk about how much money it costs and how that is a prohibitive,” Ms. Ross said, commenting on her goals for the field trip. “I wanted them to at least start to hear about financial aid.”
The group discussed how to navigate financial aid during a presentation given by Director of College Access and Completion Mike Dennehy, as well as the practicality of obtaining both a high school and college degree in terms of job and salary expectations.
“It’s important to start that discussion early, especially for students and families who are not familiar with the United States college application process, such as first and second generation immigrants and students whose parents didn’t go to college,” Clinical Assistant Professor Christine Leider said. Dr. Leider has a long-standing partnership with Ms. Ross and members of the Salemwood community; Dr. Leider organized the field trip along with her colleagues at the school.
“Mike’s presentation also addressed drop-out concerns by sharing the difference in salary between having a high school degree and not having one,” Dr. Leider said.” I think it was really powerful for the students to see.”
The students were enthusiastic and engaged in the presentation, each of them raising their hand when Mr. Dennehy asked who in the room wanted to attend college, and offering their ideas about what you need to be accepted to a college or university. Mr. Dennehy’s talk included small group discussions which were facilitated by SED doctoral student, Kuang Li, as well as two SED alums, Sarah Symes and Kristen Martin. Both Ms. Symes and Ms. Martin completed their student teaching at Salemwood.
Lauren McGonagle, an eighth grade Sheltered English Immersion teacher, said that this helped students to consider their own futures.
“For some of these students, they have been in the country for less than a year and have not had an opportunity like this. I wanted them to start thinking about their future and what they wanted,” she said.
The Salemwood students then enjoyed a tour led by SED students, Olivia McKellar and Nora Quinn and had the opportunity to listen to and ask questions from a student panel discussion which featured two SED alumni, Antonelli Mejia and Veronica Rios-Brown, as well as undergraduate students, Sara Li and Carley Dibert, and graduate student Jennifer Eliezer.
“The Salemwood students asked questions that ranged from how many classes do you take and how many people are in your classes to what do you eat in college and can you choose your roommate,” Dr. Leider said. “It was pretty neat.”
She added that the panel members offered invaluable advice such as “don’t be afraid to ask for help”, “remember to sleep”, and “learn to manage your time”
“One really cool moment was when one of our alumni, Antonelli, asked who in the room speaks a language other than English,” Dr. Leider said.
After students raised their hands, he told them that their bilingualism is an asset, and not to be ashamed of it.
“I think that was big for them,” Dr. Leider said.
Ms. Ross echoed Dr. Leider in terms of the impact of the trip, and the impression it left on her students.
“The biggest take away for our students was that college is a reality. It exists and isn’t some far off place they will never see,” Ms. Ross said. “This makes it more of an option for them.”