Students experienced residential college life and learned about the college application process.

Saratoga Springs, NY – Ten students from Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, MA gathered at Skidmore College this week to participate in a College Explore event. These students are part of the CFES program, which engages students in three core practices – Mentoring, Leadership Through Service, and Pathways to College and Career – to guide students towards college and career success. This three-day visit to Skidmore gave the students an opportunity to taste college life that included lectures from professors, staying in dorms, talking with current college students, and workshops focused on the college application process. For many CFES students, this residential experience that College Explore provides is eye-opening.

Upon their arrival at Skidmore, students were welcomed by CFES Director of Special Programs Andrea McDonald, who congratulated them for having the courage to leave their comfort zone to participate in the program. CFES Fellows and recent college graduates, Deirdre McAdams and Annmarie Collins, guided the students as they reflected on what they would like to get out of the visit and what their goals were for the next two days.

After gathering into mentor groups, the students discussed the college application process, including essay-writing, interviews, and maintaining good grades. They shared their questions and concerns about the college application process and discussed what they believed to be the most important parts of their applications. Alcibiades Acero, a rising senior, reflected that “now is the time to work hard to do all the work you need so you can get to college.”

Day two began with a lecture from management and business Professor Tim Harper, entitled “Innovation: Secrets, Success & Failures,” followed by a lecture from social work Professor Peter McCarthy called “The Intersectionality of Identity.” Professor McCarthy focused on the power of diversity, telling the students, “the engagement of difference is the single most important learning experience we have in the world.”

The students were also introduced to Brilliant Career Lab, a digital tool developed by CFES and the GE Foundation that helps students parse out their college and career preferences. After lunch, the students split into groups according to gender to discuss issues pertinent to gender in higher education, such as encouraging women to stay motivated in male-dominated fields like STEM. This was followed by information sessions about financial aid and career development.

After an outdoor BBQ dinner, the students gathered to watch In 500 Words or Less, a motivational film that highlights the difficulties students face during the college application process and how they might overcome these struggles. The movie was followed by an ice cream social, where students spoke to a panel of current Skidmore students about all things college related.

The final day involved one last mentor group session, where students received Certificates of Achievement for having completed the College Explore program and reflected on their experience. They wrote letters to their future selves, filled with their aspirations and words of encouragement that will be mailed to them at a later date. Finally, the students completed their experience with a mini college fair that highlighted five colleges.

Reflecting on the three days, one Burke student said, “I am a CFES leader and with this experience I’ve realized that I have grown and I can make others around me grow. I learned that I am a bigger and stronger leader because of this program.”