Students from Boston and New York City gathered in Vermont to become college and career ready.

Nine months ago, Jayvon Lopes arrived in Boston from Cape Verde speaking no English, struggling through his classes at Jeremiah E. Burke High School. It was difficult for Jayvon to see a future that involved college and career and to make connections between his high school classes and college opportunities. In late July, however, Jayvon had the opportunity to look forward, explore his potential, and realize that college and career success is within his grasp. Jayvon, along with 20 other students from Boston and New York City, spent three days at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont as part of the College Explore program sponsored by CFES. College Explore brings students to college campuses for a residential experience filled with workshops and activities about the college application process and how to become college and career ready. For many students, the experience is life-changing.

The program was led by Annmarie Collins and Anna Garson, who are part of the CFES Fellowship program that gives recent college graduates the opportunity to work for one year in CFES headquarters and support CFES professionals in schools nationwide. Program Director Angel Acosta also led the students through a variety of activities. Angel himself was enrolled in CFES when he was in high school, and is currently pursuing a doctorate from the Teachers College at Columbia University. Angel helped the students unravel the college application essay, reinforcing that each of them has a unique story to tell. Rafael Coris, a rising senior from Burke, reflected that “the essay workshops were the most helpful because now I feel more prepared to begin my college applications.”

The most exciting part of College Explore for many students was the time spent with STEM professors, including Dr. John O’Meara from the Physics department and Dr. Declan McCabe, chair of the Biology department. Professor McCabe first led the students through an insect laboratory, and then discussed the different areas of biological study. He crowded the tables with mammalian skulls and explained the evolutionary biology of everything from lions to house cats and dire wolves to chihuahuas. Professor McCabe encouraged the students to pursue their passions. “I’m still surprised someone pays me to study bugs,” he explained, “and you’ll find that you can channel your interests into careers too.”

By the time the buses left St. Michael’s to bring everyone back to Boston and New York City, the students had challenged themselves, made new friends, and started to see a clearer path towards post-secondary school success. Jayvon, far from the shores of Cape Verde, saw his journey back to Boston as similar to his journey to the U.S: “I’m going to be a different person when I get there, but now I know I can be successful.”