FULTON, NY – The Fulton City School District Board of Education heard about the district’s distinct opportunity to participate in a “cutting edge” experiment designated to only six school districts in New York State.
Partnering with Cayuga Community College, FCSD is moving forward with the Dual Enrollment Experimental Site Initiative as the U.S. Department of Education pairs 44 colleges throughout the country with low-income high school students eligible for PELL grant funding for college courses to start working earlier toward the completion of a degree program.
FCSD specifically has initially targeted 35 G. Ray Bodley High School students that would be eligible for PELL grant funds to complete a minimum of 12 credit hours through courses at CCC Fulton Campus while also enrolled and earning the necessary credits at GRB.
“We’re really on the cutting edge of this,” said executive director of instruction and assessment, Betsy Conners.
The overall goal of participating in this program is to encourage multiple pathways for students and to showcase the college experience to students who may have become disengaged in school to get them refocused and understanding of the possibilities that are available to them for college.
“The point is to wrap supports around our students. We want to show them that they can go to college and be successful, and we will be there every step of the way,” said Conners.
Students participating in the 2016-2017 school year will take two courses totaling six credit hours in the fall semester and two courses totaling six credit hours in the spring semester after acceptance in to a CCC Degree Program in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), liberal arts or the health science field.
“We targeted those fields in the grant because we find they are high need in our community,” said Conners.
Parents of selected students will have to complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Financial Aid) to secure the PELL money. CCC will provide ample opportunities for assistance in this step, Conners noted as one of the many opportunities for assistance the college will provide to students and parents.
“I just really appreciate the relationship we continue forging (with CCC),” said Conners. “We truly have a great resource right here in our city.”
The high school students will begin their school day at GRB as normal before being transported by the district to CCC for their afternoon course and then returning to the high school for regular dismissal.
Students enrolled at CCC in the fall will also complete the Cayuga 101 course at GRB with Angela Ferlito every other day as to continue to provide as many supports as possible for the students.
Students will also participate in extra help sessions at GRB and have assistance opportunities at the CCC tutoring center and from student advocates to continue providing extra support.
The courses will be two days a week on either a Monday and Wednesday schedule or a Tuesday and Thursday schedule as chosen by the students from a pre-selected list of courses chosen by CCC and GRB staff.
Thus, all students will not be attending the same courses on the same days as each other.
“We really want them to meld in with the college kids, to experience what it’s really like,” Conners said.
However, the students will remain under the regulations of the FCSD code of conduct while in attendance at CCC.
Selected students and their families learned of the opportunity available to them in June and were able to attend a parent night on Monday (June 27) for a more in depth look into the initiative.
Conners, representatives from CCC, and GRB administration and staff presented the opportunity to the students and families invited.
Conners was pleased to report that by showing the students the possible careers available both locally and nationwide through these degree programs along with the median hourly wage of each, students began to see the long term possibilities and express excitement in the initiative.
School officials say that although they invited 35 students to participate, they don’t foresee more than 25 students enrolling in the initiative in the 2016-2017 school year.
The students were selected based on a low-income status while also considering learning barriers and holding individual meetings with each designated student.
When questioning whether some of these students would be able to handle the rigorous course work associated with a secondary level education course, Conners described some of the students as “calculated risks.”
However, she feels this is a good opportunity to reconnect students who have become disengaged and show them the financial supports available that could allow them to fulfill the satisfaction of a college degree, an idea they may have otherwise dismissed entirely or not known.
“Again, we are taking high risk kids and showing them, you can do this,” Conners said.
Board member Christine Plath said, “It seems like a great way to have them gain some confidence and excitement for education and let build off of that.”
While the program will come at no cost to the district except that of transportation, CCC will pick up any costs to the student not covered by PELL and all costs per student if the student absolutely does not work out with the course.
However, a student is only eligible for PELL for a six-year period once they apply for the first time. If a student utilizes the PELL grant and does not complete the course, “the clock starts ticking for PELL,” said Conners.
Conners also explained that some students will be taking dual enrollment courses already at GRB in which they have the opportunity to earn even more college credits through utilizing multiple pathways.
“It’s about building pathways for our kids,” said superintendent, Bill Lynch. “We need to provide multiple pathways and this takes us away from our traditional route.”
The board of education unanimously gave approval to continue the initiative for the interested students.
“I think it’s great to put kids right in college, give them that experience and let them build relationships at CCC,” said board member Barbara Hubbard.
Their next step will be applying for FAFSA over the summer and attending CCC orientation in August.
“We really want to roll out the red carpet and be the cheerleaders for these kids,” said Conners. “We really believe this is an opportunity to make a difference in these kids’ lives, and we are passionate about watching them succeed.”