Students Reach College Aspirations Thanks to University of Success
Twenty students participated in The University of Scranton’s University of Success Summer Institute. Students attending the Summer Institute participated in hands on projects, presentations and field trips to develop skills needed to successfully finish high school and gain acceptance to college.
If Terrence Sweeney, Ph.D., professor of biology, had lived in Oz, the Tin Man would not have had to go in search of the Wizard for a heart. Rather, Dorothy’s sentimental companion could have asked Dr. Sweeney to build one for him. Not a real heart mind you, but a convincing facsimile.
Justin Davis is a sophomore at Wilkes University pursuing a career in pharmacy. If not for the help of The University of Scranton’s University of Success, Davis said he might not be on such a promising path. “I owe my career up to this point to the University of Success,” Davis said. “I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the program.”
Margaret Loughney, director of the University of Success at The University of Scranton, said the program is designed to prepare high school students who are typically unrepresented on college campuses, such as first-generation students and students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, for higher education.
“These are students who are targeted by their guidance counselors as bright students who have the potential for college, but need a helping hand,” Loughney said.
Loughney said the program, which has run for 17 years, begins during the summer before the participants’ freshman year in high school. The 20 chosen applicants go through a two-week summer “academy” at The University of Scranton. The program then continues one Saturday a month for the rest of the students’ high-school careers. The program, offered free of charge to participants, is funded almost entirely by corporate and foundation grants. Sponsors are the Prudential Foundation, the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, Met Life Foundation, Wells Fargo, the Charles Frueauff Foundation and Overlook Estate Foundation.
Loughney said the University of Success focuses on improving skills necessary to gain admission to and succeed in college, including study skills, public speaking, SAT prep and math and science enrichment courses. Loughney explained the program also reveals to students potential career paths and volunteer opportunities. Students in the summer academy volunteered at St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen and the Leahy Clinic for the Uninsured.
Loughney said the program also informs parents on financial aid and other related topics they need to know about college.
“Parents are at a big disadvantage if they don’t know the system,” Loughney said. “There are parents who say, ‘I can’t afford to send my kid to college,’ and I say, ‘You can’t afford not to send them’.”
Tyler Brady, a student at Mid Valley High School, is one of the incoming freshmen for the program’s newest group. Brady, who is considering studying law in college, said he already feels he has learned a lot, “not just academically but socially,” and is excited for what lies ahead.
“It taught me a lot about myself,” Brady said. “The counselors were a big part of the experience … It opens up a lot of doors.”
Jamary Gil, a student at Scranton High School and another member of the University of Success’ incoming class, said she is grateful for this opportunity.
“It’s a huge honor being at The University of Scranton,” Gil said. “It’s an honor for the program counselors to help prepare me for college.”
Gil, who wants to study to become a physical therapist, said so far her most enjoyable experience with the University of Success is the rope course at Pocono Environmental Education Center.
“It was built around the philosophy of life,” Gil said. “It taught me how to keep your head up and work together with a team and be like a family.” Gil said this sense of teamwork and family reflects what University of Success teaches.
“We’re all striving for the same thing here,” Gil added.
Davis felt his experience with the University of Success was so impactful, he decided to come back as a camp counselor for the two-week summer academy. Davis said he loved watching the group become closer and bond over the weeks.
“To see them now from where they started – they’re like a family,” Davis said.
Davis said he hopes the participants make the most of the resources and opportunities available to them.