CCSC Alumni Share Tips on College Success

CCSC Alumni Panelists
CCSC Alumni Panelists

When we describe CCSC as a “college preparatory” school, we are not only referring to the rigorous instruction students receive in the classroom, but to the school’s overarching expectation that every student will go on to earn a post-secondary degree. We begin talking about college – what it takes to get in and what it takes to graduate – from the moment students enroll through senior year, and beyond. Reinforcing the message they hear over and over from teachers and advisors, students also get tips from recent CCSC graduates at special events like the annual Alumni Panel, held this year on January 3rd at the Microsoft NERD Center. All students in grades 9 through 12 attended.

College Counselor Nadira Hairston kicked off the morning event with a short recap of CCSC’s college placement success since our first class graduated in 2009: 100% of graduates over all four years were accepted to a college and 90% are matriculating at a four-year college. Particularly impressive is that 76% of the Class of 2009 is on track to graduate this spring, a far higher rate than the national averages of 38% for all students and 23% for students of color.

Ms. Hairston also announced that CCSC senior Janika Beatty has become the school’s fourth Posse Scholar, winning a full-tuition, four-year scholarship to Hamilton College. (Full story on our website).

Next up, humanities teacher Katie Rieser talked about the importance of the personal essay students submit with their college applications. All rising seniors at CCSC attend a two-week essay-writing course in the summer and receive continued support in editing their essays throughout the fall. Seniors Abigail Teixeira and Khaalid Parham were chosen to read their essays as outstanding examples of the kinds of reflections on transformative personal experiences that college admission officers are looking for.

Courtney Johnson answers a question.
Courtney Johnson ’09 answers a question.

The bulk of the morning was devoted to the alumni panel discussion on making the most of the college experience. Nine recent CCSC graduates fielded students’ questions on college, from finding the right fit and navigating the financial aid process, to deciding on a major and choosing courses, adjusting to dorm life, balancing academics and extracurriculars, studying abroad, and networking for future employment. The panelists were: Courtney Johnson ’09 (Cornell University); Jolivirginie Ripert ’10 (Fairfield University); Nephthalie Bernard ’10 (Wheaton College); Sarah Hamadi ’10 (Westfield State University); Eunice Bernard ’11 (College of the Holy Cross); Daniel Howell ’12 (UMass-Lowell); Brunet Saintil ’12 (Wheaton College); Chance Flaherty ’12 (Wentworth Institute of Technology); and Sarah Merisier ’12 (College of the Holy Cross).

Daniel Howell talks about freshman year.
Daniel Howell ’12 talks about freshman year.

All the alumni panelists stressed the importance of taking ownership of your education by keeping your grades up, meeting with professors during office hours, and making full use of all available campus resources to help students manage academic and social stress and the myriad other challenges that college life presents. Several of the panelists urged younger students to push themselves outside their comfort zones by considering colleges farther away from home, studying abroad and exploring new interests. All of them felt the CCSC had prepared them well for college, especially by instilling a strong work ethic and high expectations.

Courtney Johnson attributed her motivation to do her best at Cornell to “the pride my CCSC teachers took in sending a first-generation college student to an Ivy League school. My success wouldn’t be possible without the support I still get from my CCSC teachers. It’s like a mini-family. When I come back to campus to visit, they all ask how I’m doing.”

The sense of pride goes both ways, as Head of School Caleb Hurst-Hiller noted in his closing remarks. Thanking the panelists for sharing their perspectives, he said, “You make us proud to work at a school like this.”

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