By Beverly Danquah
During her third period lunch, Raliat Akesode, senior at Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, can be seen in the College Office applying for scholarships, calling colleges to follow up, and checking her e-mail. Located in Room 154, the College Office has proven itself to be a setting where seniors and juniors alike can communicate with schools while receiving the assistance they need from trained advisers.
Advisers Julia Valentin, Lisa Richardson and Dennis Pooler are in part responsible for the 90.2% of graduating seniors who have applied for college as of March 9, 2015. Of the 90.2% of seniors who have applied for college, 80% will enroll in 4-year institutions while the remaining 20% will enroll in 2-year institutions.
College Office adviser Ms. Valentin went to the College of New Rochelle, where she received her degree in liberal arts, and then attended the New York Institute of Technology where she received her Master’s Degree in school counseling. She can often be seen behind her desk on Naviance.com assisting students with school reports and other communications with schools. By keeping tabs on students through Naviance, Ms. Valentin is able to get a better understanding of how she can serve the students, and where she has room to grow. This includes helping students mail their transcripts to schools and serving as a “checklist monitor” for students to know what it is they’re missing in order to complete their applications.
“Students are always researching on their own, they’ve become very independent as far as following up with colleges, facing their responsibilities on their own, and narrowing down what they want. In comparison to other years, this class is more on top of their stuff. They know where they want to apply, and they’re on track to graduate,” Ms. Valentin said.
Lisa Richardson is a College Office adviser who works at the Harlem Center for Education. She is an academic adviser. Her program offers college prep, SAT prep, tutoring, fee waivers, financial aid counseling, college counseling and college tours.
“I serve as a vital component to the seniors’ college process. I’m the most knowledgeable person in the school as far as college admissions. The fact is, that when the students come in, they can trust what I say to them. I’m aware of the financial aid process, and how to get them more money,” Lisa affirms.
In the beginning of the school year, the College Office served as a place where college reps from all over the country would come visit and speak to seniors who were in the process of applying to college. By giving the students a feel of each school as well as the school’s requirements, these recruiters were able to help students make a better decision as to whether or not they wanted to apply to a particular school.
“Around October, Binghamton University came to visit,” remembers Kary Liang, a senior. “I spoke to them about their requirements, what the school is like, what I should expect, and if the school was a good fit for me. Because I got so much information about the school, I was able to make an educated decision when it came to applying there. I applied there, and I’m still waiting to hear from them.”
Because of the 60+ colleges that have already visited the College Office over the course of the year, there will be even more schools attending MCSM’s Annual College Fair on Thursday April 30, 2015, from 2:00-4:30 in the cafeteria.
“There will be more colleges visiting the College Office next year because I’ve networked, and because so many students have applied to diverse schools,” said Ms. Valentin.
Dennis Pooler is a College Office adviser who is from the Union Settlement college readiness program. Dennis went to Mount Saint Vincent and studied English education.
The Union Settlement college readiness program serves freshman to senior students. They provide tutoring, college readiness skills, SAT prep, leadership group, a teen health program, STEM groups, summer writing, and theater. This program also works with families who may not be as knowledgable as they could be about important details of the college process, in this way helping five students each year to get a scholarship.
Dennis has assisted about 200 students in applying for FAFSA this school year alone.
“I use the College Office to print out papers that I need for colleges and to check my emails. I recently used it to print out my EOP papers, and Dennis helped me to fill them out,” said Kaithra Shaw, senior. “In the College Office, I get a better social environment. Even if one of the advisers are too busy to help me, I know one of the students in there will definitely help me.”
Although the College Office sees more seniors than juniors or underclassmen, they are available for any student to utilize the space to their advantage.
“I go to the College Office when I want see if there are college trips available; to get advice from seniors who are in the process of applying so I know what to expect next year; and to finish school work. I believe I am prepared for next year because of my prior usage of the College Office,” said Joyce Boadu, junior.
The class of 2015 is expected to exceed last year’s graduation rate of 94% and seniors await their college acceptance letters by the end of this month.
“I don’t know what MCSM was like before me, but I definitely feel like I can see what it’s like with me,” says Lisa. “I’m very fortunate to be a part of the success that happens every year at Manhattan Center.”