November 5, 2012
Getting ready for college
Ninth-graders learn what to expect through ACE program
SUNY Cortland has an answer for parents who complain that their children are ill-prepared for college and career life.
The Access to College Education program, or ACE, provides students and parents with resources and services that provide instruction on what to expect when applying to college, and how they ought to do so.
Eighth-graders are informed of the program through their guidance counselors or teachers and can join when they enter high school. ACE is offered by the Cincinnatus, Cortland, DeRuyter, Homer, Lansing, Newfield and South Seneca school districts; its participating colleges are Cornell University, Ithaca College, SUNY Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
ACE has about 400 students enrolled in the program, according to Carol Clarke, who took over as its coordinator last year.
“I hear from a lot of parents that they wish they had access to this program in high school,” she said on Saturday at “Spirit Day” an annual event that SUNY Cortland ACE holds for ninth-graders and their parents. They were offered a tour of the campus and participated in team-building exercises with college instructors.
SUNY Cortland’s director of recreational sports, Julian Wright, was the keynote speaker. He gave an introduction to the college’s on-campus sports clubs and intramural activities, and some of his own pointers.
“You’ve got to take things seriously from now on,” he told a gathering of freshman and parents, of which there were about 35. “I grew up on a small farm in Mississippi, and I think back to some of my classmates who never left that little town. If you want the highest quality of life you can get, go to college.”
He mused that there was merit in not going to college as well, joking that he had attended college, but could not fix his own car if he wanted to.
“You’re out of class more often than you’re in class. So what you do out of class has more bearing on your success,” he told them, warning of the distractions and dangers of partying and the bar scene.
Later, they split into groups to engage in team-building exercises. In one of SUNY Cortland’s gyms, Tom Fuchs, an activity specialist and lecturer in the physical education department, set a group of students with the task of spinning small colored propellers into the air so that their partners could catch them, with the goal of seeing every propeller caught. They also switched name tags with other youths in the group, then had to introduce themselves as another person as a way of learning names.
Dan Appleby brought his 14-year-old daughter Anna to Saturday’s showing. She is new to the program as a freshman at South Seneca High School.
“At 14, it’s hard to get kids to take college seriously. This is the second event she’s attended, and so far there’s been a positive response,” said Appleby. He said he went to college for several years, but never ended up finishing, which played into his decision to try to motivate his daughter early. Anna said she was interested in pursuing a law degree.
Zach Detrich, a ninth-grader from Lansing, said he learned about ACE during a meeting held during his math class. “It’s giving me a broader view on how college life is and what programs may interest me,” he said. Detrich said he was interested in becoming a personal trainer, and that he played baseball, basketball and track.
Both the area high schools and colleges host ACE events during the summer and school year.
Ninth-graders are given the chance to tour Ithaca College each year, where they are given a presentation on getting the right education for their chosen career. In the next few years, they are eventually given the chance to sit in on their choice of college classes at Tompkins Cortland Community College, then later an introduction to what life is like on campus at Cornell University.
Just two weeks ago, said Clarke, ACE’s high school seniors were given a seminar on the college application process at Cornell, and how they ought to go about writing a proper college essay.
The idea is not to try to sell the students on going to a particular college, said Clarke, but more on acclimating them to the different sizes and types of college campuses, and to make it less imposing.
“Some of them won’t go to college at all; we know that,” she said. “But many of them have never been to a college campus and have no idea what it could offer them.”
ACE’s events are engineered to involve both the student and the parent. “Making Choices,” a program at Ithaca College, guides both parties on college selection, and how parents can help through the daunting financial aid process.
In exchange for these services, ACE students must maintain a B-average, and attend at least three events per year for a total of 12 when they graduate. Clarke said 94 percent of ACE program graduates go on to two- or four-year colleges.
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