From July 15-19, Manhattan College welcomed 30 Bronx high school students for the fifth annual Summer Literacy Institute (SLI), a weeklong college immersion experience in collaboration with Kingsbridge Heights Community Center's College Directions Program and with with funding provided by the Teagle Foundation.
From sleeping in the residence halls to sampling dining hall fare, participants get more than a taste of college life. They experience a real college classroom and emerge with a precious takeaway: a polished college application essay.
Each day of the institute brings an opportunity to explore a field of study — biology, religious studies and philosophy — with Manhattan College faculty members including Michael Judge, Ph.D., Stephen Kaplan, Ph.D., and David Bollert, Ph.D. Every academic module is followed by a study session and quiz, to reinforce the study skills crucial to successful test-taking.
With the guidance of Daniel Collins, Ph.D., associate professor of English, and Marisa Passafiume, director for academic success, students spend approximately 20 hours in a small writing group to complete a polished personal statement for their college applications.
The program also introduces students to the realities of the College admissions and financial aid processes as well as the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), which provides supportive services and financial aid to New York state residents who meet specific academic and financial criteria, and attend independent colleges and universities in New York State.
“The ultimate goal of SLI is getting students to realize they are capable of completing the work needed to succeed in college,” Collins said. “If we can do that, they will finish their senior year of high school more likely to go to college and be better prepared for college, and in some cases, be the first person in their family to attend college.”
Since its inception in 2009, more than 100 students have completed the program, 95 percent of which have gone on to attend four-year colleges. The institute’s success is due, in part, to friendly encouragement from Manhattan College student mentors during off-the-cuff conversations or scheduled discussions.
The institute made all the difference for SLI alumna and current Manhattan College mathematics major Sandy Trinidad ’15. As a rising senior at the International Leadership Charter School in the Bronx, she felt as though her essay ideas would fall short when stacked against a mountain of college applications. But arriving at Manhattan College in July 2012, she says a simple conversation with a student mentor helped her choose a topic, which she developed and perfected in her writing group.
“Joining SLI was probably the smartest decision I ever made during my college application process,” Trinidad said. “I told one of my counselors that I played the piano, and with the help of my counselors I was able to write about how the piano shaped who I am. My interest in the College continued to grow, and I was able to submit a successful Manhattan College application — it's a choice I will never regret.”