November 8, 2015

Cornell to Provide Pre-College Services to Ithaca Students

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With a $198,000 state grant and nearly $50,000 from the University, Cornell’s Public Service Center is coordinating a Science and Technology Entry Program to begin in January that will provide pre-college services to 99 disadvantaged students across Ithaca over the next five years.

The grant, which comes as part of the New York State Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), allows Cornell to join a coalition of 58 colleges and universities around New York also working to expand higher education opportunities for disadvantaged middle and high school students.

The Public Service Center’s program will serve local students at DeWitt Middle School, Boynton Middle School and Ithaca High School over the next five years, according to Jana Leyden, the program’s assistant director.

In addition to the $198,000 grant from the New York State Department of Education, the University will match 25 percent of the state funds, Leyden said. Both the state grant and the University’s funding are renewable annually for the next five years.

The pre-college services will ideally include career and college counseling, SAT/ACT preparation, individual subject tutoring, leadership training, college tours and financial aid guidance, according to Leyden.

These services are intended to encourage entry into the fields of science, technology, engineering and math in addition to state-licensed professions such as social work and landscape architecture, she added.

“It’s difficult for teens who haven’t been exposed to the STEM fields to understand what most STEM careers really are, and it’s important that [STEP] is connecting those students to STEM in their communities,” said Betty Lazias ’18, a program assistant.

In order for local students to be eligible for the Science and Technology Entry Program, they must be either economically disadvantaged on a basis of family income and assets or historically underrepresented in the STEM fields, according to Leyden. The state classifies historically underrepresented students in STEM as students of African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, and Alaskan Indian origins.

“There’s lots of programs like this that exist, but what sets this one apart from the others is its long-term nature,” Leyden said. “This is a five year grant … that has a position where the assistant director meets with the students on a regular basis inside the school building so we really become a part of the schools.”

Cornell’s Science and Technology Entry Program proposal was initiated last spring by Jen Rudolf, the director of the University’s pre-college opportunity programs, and was approved by the state’s Department of Education on July 1. Since then, the program has entered its recruitment process and is now accepting applications from students throughout Ithaca. Leyden said she expects Ithaca’s program to be fully operational by January.

Personnel in the Cornell Public Service Center have been primarily responsible for coordinating and organizing the Science and Technology Entry Program implementation since last spring, but have been largely assisted by several organizations including 4H Youth Development and Cornell Business & Technology Development, according to a press release.