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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

High school students from Central Falls get a jump-start on college

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- July 17, 2008 -- The University of Rhode Island has created a pathway to college for some students at the Central Falls High School: A University of Rhode Island Academy. In fact, seventeen high school juniors and seniors have started down that path – a path that will help students to overcome many of the barriers and obstacles that have made access to higher education difficult.

The students were selected to participate in a new dual-enrollment program that allows them to be enrolled in two college courses this summer. One class is taught through the University and one through the Community College of Rhode Island. Both are taught at the University's Feinstein Providence Campus. The program is one of six summer dual-enrollment initiatives being funded by the Rhode Island Office of Higher Education and involving more than 400 students.

Last spring, these students attended academic skills workshops and received individual and group tutoring to prepare them for the summer college courses. These programs were all part of the school's new Academic Enhancement Center that is modeled after the university's primary learning assistance center and was supported by a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation.
Now the Central Falls students are wrapping up their first "summer semester" in college.

URI Communication Studies Professor Lynn Derbyshire is teaching one of the college courses offered to the students. "These are wonderful students. They are very well prepared for each class, involved and dedicated to exploring the world of interpersonal communication studies," she said. "This is Communications 101, the same class, taught at the same pace, with all of the same materials as the one taken by thousands of freshman each year. These students are all taking this very seriously and it has been an enriching experience for all of us."

As part of the Pathways program, URI undergraduate and graduate student tutors are working as part of the Academic Enhancement Center to support the high school students' efforts. They have helped students to focus on their writing and related issues faced if English is not the primary language spoken by them or in their home.

Adrian Watts-Driscoll, director of the Academic Enhancement Center at the high school, said the students selected for this program are those who are curious about college, high-achieving and committed to their studies. To be considered, students had to submit an essay describing why they wanted to attend college and why the program would help them to fulfill their higher education goals. They also provided letters of recommendation from a teacher or employer.

"The energy and enthusiasm from everyone involved in this partnership and college classroom experience is catchy -- from the high school students themselves, to Professor Derbyshire, to speakers they have had in class, and all the way to URI's Vice President John McCray," said Watts-Driscoll. "It makes a great back-to-school 'What I did on my summer vacation' story for all."

The Central Falls High School: A University of Rhode Island Academy (CFHS:URI) is an ongoing partnership that is helping to transition Central Falls from a school “making insufficient progress” and “identified for improvement,” to one that is a recognized high-performing school of distinction as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The goal of the partnership is to achieve this classification within four years. The University began working with leaders from the RI Department of Education and the Central Falls community in 2007 to provide academic support services and leadership development activities for students, professional development for teachers, enhanced technology, enhanced outreach to and engagement of parents, families, and community members in their students’ and the schools’ activities; and an arts literacy program designed to improve English language skills for English language learners and increase student academic engagement. Thus far this year, The Rhode Island Foundation, IBM, Toyota Corporation, and the Office of Higher Education have provided financial, technical and training resources to support the partnership's efforts.

Photos by Michael Salerno for URI Department of Communications & Marketing. View album
Pathway to College