They aren’t proud Johnnies just yet, but last week, a group of middle school students partaking in the national After-School All-Stars program were able to experience the average day of a St. John’s University scholar.
From Feb. 18 to Feb. 21, 45 seventh- and eighth-graders from MS 216 in Fresh Meadows and MS 217 in Jamaica sat in on college classes, toured the St. John’s campus and took part in workshops as an introduction to what college life will look like.
For the fourth year in a row, the New York chapter of After-School All-Stars, based at St. John’s, paired with the university’s Vincentian Institute for Social Action group to form a college immersion program.
The four-day session aims to inspire middle school students to get excited about college and starting their careers.
Mary Beth Schaefer, an education professor at St. John’s and founder of the college immersion program at the school, believes this year’s session was a tremendous success.
“Every year, it just gets better and better,” Schaefer said at the 2014 session’s “closing ceremony” on Friday. “This program is a lot of work for a lot of people and when I see the kids here, it’s so worth it. This truly makes a difference.”
The students sat in on three different classes — toxicology, sports management and human relations — and were able to fictitiously choose to major in one of the three courses.
Leadership and career workshops were also provided to the students, as well as an information session provided by the university’s financial aid representatives.
On the final day of the program, Schaefer spoke to the students about it before they received certificates and shirts as their parents looked on.
Vincentian Institute for Social Action Executive Director Deanne Southwell believes that the week spent at St. John’s will benefit the students in ways they can’t imagine.
“This program is focused on providing opportunities for individuals to succeed. For many individuals, they will be the first person in their family to go to college,” Southwell said. “The idea is to give them the tools, not only to succeed in middle school, but to get to college as well.”
Thirteen-year-old MS 217 students Nicholas Persad and Jorge Guifarro were both grateful for the experience and believe the lessons they learned will follow them to college in five years time.
“Now that I’m here, I have an open mind to college,” Guifarro said. “This week was something I didn’t expect. I always heard that college classes were hard and boring, but it was different.”
“On the tour, you got to see all of the places on campus and all the students going to class,” Persad added. “You want to be there. It was fun to experience the college life.”
The office of admissions at St. John’s could be very busy in 2018, as both Persad and Guifarro along with numerous other students, said they wish to become Johnnies after they graduate high school.