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SMCC Program Builds Bridge to College Success for PPS Students

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SMCC Program Builds Bridge to College Success for PPS Students
Posted on 07/14/2015
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Nearly 40 recent Portland Public Schools’ graduates are taking part in a program at Southern Maine Community College that increases student success by improving academic preparedness, building life and academic skills, and providing a support system through to graduation.

The program, called MySuccess, provides students an intensive three-week summer success program, a $500 scholarship toward their first semester and a dedicated coach who will work with them year-round to ensure their success at SMCC. The program, now in its second year, has been receiving recognition for helping ensure that high school students are prepared for success in college.

“The first MySuccess students are still here with us and their success has been substantial. They have earned more credits, achieved higher grades and forged greater successes than peers who did not participate in the program,” said SMCC President Ron Cantor. “The program does more than get students through our door. It helps them succeed once they are here and it sees them through completion of their degree.”

The MySuccess program was established last year through a two-year, $125,000 grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation and matching funds from SMCC. It is the product of a unique partnership between SMCC, Portland Public Schools, the John T. Gorman Foundation and Portland ConnectED, a community coalition that aims to improve educational outcomes for Portland students from cradle to career.

This year’s students arrived last Thursday for two days of orientation. For the next three weeks, the students will come to SMCC Monday through Thursday and take classes, meet people, and participate in activities on campus. The summer portion of the program ends July 30.

Sixteen students were enrolled in the program during the 2014-15 academic year, showing impressive results that included:

    * Sixteen students tested out of 20 developmental courses, saving them a combined $6,000 in tuition and fees and 800 hours of coursework.

    * No MySuccess students were enrolled in the lowest developmental English course in the Spring Semester, compared to 32 percent of similar Portland Public Schools students who were not in the program.

    * No MySuccess students were enrolled in the lowest developmental Math course in the Spring Semester, compared to 72 percent of similar Portland Public Schools students who were not in the program.

The program helps build a pathway that students need to succeed, said outgoing Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk.

“It provides a seamless transition for Portland graduates enrolling in SMCC to receive vital support that will help ensure they successfully complete college,” Caulk said. “Thank you to Portland ConnectED and SMCC for this partnership that's made possible by the John T. Gorman Foundation."

Claudia Nyinawumwami was nervous when she came to SMCC last year as a MySuccess student after graduating from Deering High School. The program gave her self-confidence and support to succeed in college, and she is serving as a peer mentor to this year’s group of MySuccess students.

“I’ll be able to tell the new students how college works, about how to plan their time and how to get their work done,” she said. “I can show them how to use the resources available at the school, like the Learning Commons and the library, and how to talk to their professors if they have questions.”

Zakia Momand was also unsure of herself when she arrived at SMCC last year as a MySuccess student. She’s now planning to continue her education after she graduates from SMCC, become a lawyer and work on women’s issues in her native Afghanistan.

“I feel that without (the program) I wouldn’t be as successful as I am now,” she said.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said the MySuccess program shows how positive results can be achieved when different institutions and organizations work together in innovative ways.

"This program is a critical part of the city of Portland's work, in concert with the partners of Portland ConnectED, to increase the number of high school graduates going to college while improving their chances of success once they are there,” he said. “Working with Portland Public Schools and the John T. Gorman Foundation, SMCC is leading the way in this effort to ensure that our students will attain success in college and beyond."

Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) is Maine’s largest and oldest community college. Founded in 1946, SMCC offers courses at its South Portland and Brunswick campuses, at community satellite locations and online. SMCC has among the lowest tuition and fees in New England and offers more than 45 degree programs.

(Photo: MySuccess students are shown during a cookout on the program’s opening day on Thursday, July 9.)