When social distancing suddenly became the new normal for so many, Ed.D. students in The School of Education quickly turned a one-day, in-person workshop into a comprehensive online college readiness resource for middle school students and their parents.
The students in this cohort—many of whom serve in administrative positions within colleges throughout the New York City area—originally planned to deliver the workshop through Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Academy of Bellerose in Queens.
“The goal was to bring all of their skills and knowledge out and into the community,” said Katherine C. Aquino, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership. “They have vast knowledge about how high school students can successfully transition into a college environment.”
When it became clear that an in-person workshop was no longer feasible, Dr. Aquino and her students made the decision to reconfigure the project into an online platform. The resulting website features a wide range of tools and resources for students and parents, including important FAFSA information, tips on college applications, the importance of extracurricular activities, and more.
“Creating this resource for eighth-grade students really allowed me to commit to my personal initiative of closing the education gap,” said doctoral candidate Mariana Torres. “This project affirms that if we want to do that, we must continue to provide equitable resources to students and tailor the information to their needs.”
Fellow cohort member Marsha Milan-Bethel had similar thoughts. “Having worked with students in alternative education programs, I know young adults do not often see their potential,” she said. “We wanted the site to be an engaging resource for the students and their parents—and that is exactly what we accomplished.”
Zachary Basso, who teaches social studies to students in grades five through eight at St. Gregory’s, was impressed with the quality of the program, as well as the students’ ability to quickly alter its delivery method.
“Dr. Aquino’s class and the AS-L department adapted, adjusted, transformed, and delivered a much-needed, fresh experience for our students and their parents,” he said. “Among the wealth of helpful information within this digital workshop was a strong message to middle schoolers that it is never too early to consider college and careers.”
That notion was echoed by many of Mr. Basso’s students. “As I enter the final month of eighth grade, I realize how important it is to start thinking about college,” said Sebastian. “The college readiness webpage from St. John’s University helps me and my parents begin that conversation.”
For Momina, another eighth-grade student, the workshop made it clear that much of the responsibility of the college application process falls on students—not parents. “There was a section in the workshop where a woman said, ‘Colleges will ask you questions, not your parents or guardian.’ That made me realize that once I am in college, I will be responsible for everything I do.”