Montgomery County Community College High School Completion Program Earns National Honor

Blue Bell/Pottstown, PA — A Montgomery County Community College program designed to make sure struggling high school students do not slip through the cracks of the education system has earned a national honor.

The Gateway to College program at MCCC is one of only eight programs nationwide to receive the Excellence Award from the Gateway to College National Network. The Network includes more than 40 programs at community colleges throughout the country.

Through Gateway to College, students who have dropped out of high school or are significantly off track complete their high school diplomas at college-based programs such as the one at MCCC while simultaneously earning college credits toward a post-secondary degree or certificate.

Currently, the Gateway to College Program at MCCC serves 45 students from 18 school districts in Montgomery and surrounding counties. Established at MCCC in 2013, the program has help 83 students earn their high school diplomas and matriculate at MCCC.

To achieve the award, the MCCC program surpassed established benchmarks in all four categories including first-term grades, one-year persistence, two-year persistence and graduation rate, according to Gateway to College National Network President Emily Froimson.

“Your program is an exemplar for all of our partners and high school reengagement programs across the country,” Froimson wrote. “We are encouraged by your success and look to your program to be a model and a leader within our network.”

Keima Sheriff, director of the MCCC Gateway to College program, said the staff and students in the program were excited to receive the award.

“This award is a tribute to the caring, hard-working staff of the Montgomery County Community College Gateway to College Program, and the students who have worked so hard toward completing their high school diplomas,” Sheriff said. “Many of these students, for one reason or another, had nearly given up on completing high school, but through this program, they find an inner strength and confidence that they need to achieve their educational goals.”

About Montgomery County Community College
For more than 50 years, Montgomery County Community College has grown with the community to meet the evolving educational needs of Montgomery County. The College’s comprehensive curriculum includes more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as customized workforce training and certifications. Students enjoy the flexibility of learning at the College’s thriving campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, at the Culinary Arts Institute in Lansdale, and online through a robust Virtual Campus.

As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, the institution is positioned at the vanguard of national efforts to increase completion, improve learning outcomes, and remove barriers to access for students. The College is also recognized regionally and nationally for its sustainability leadership, work with military veterans, community service and service learning opportunities, and use of classroom technology. For more information, visit http://www.mc3.edu.

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Students Graduate High School Through MCCC ‘Gateway To College’ Program

Gateway Grads Sp 2014 (1)Blue Bell/Pottstown, Pa.— Eight students from Montgomery County Community College’s (MCCC) Gateway to College Program earned their high school diplomas this spring after completing the requirements necessary to graduate from their respective school districts.

Gateway to College is a national network designed for young adults ages 16-21 who are at risk for not completing high school. One of only 43 Gateway to College programs in the country, MCCC partners locally with 16 area school districts and the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) to help increase high school—and ultimately college—graduation rates.

Spring 2014 graduates include Meghan Benson, Wissahickon; Ne’Cole Casalena, Phoenixville; James Hanible, Pottsgrove; Erika Knappenberger, Souderton; Justin Leamy, Pottsgrove; Jose Ortiz Rivera, Hatboro-Horsham; Carlas Rich, Phoenixville; and Rachel Voltz, Upper Merion. All of the graduates plan to pursue post-secondary education, and at least six will attend MCCC in the fall.

One of those graduates, Ne’Cole Casalena, Phoenixville High School, described her journey in rhyming lyrics, speaking as class valedictorian.

“And I want to thank everyone but me, cause without you, I don’t know where I would be. Where I am, as a person, they are life lessons, not a burden…If I could, I wouldn’t change a thing, cause out of 18 years, this was the best spring,” she recited.

In only its first year at MCCC, the Gateway to College program has grown from 21 students in the fall to 52 this spring. At full capacity, the program will serve up to 150 students annually.

“My Gateway students are some of the most resilient and capable young people I have had the pleasure of supporting on their academic journey,” shared Keima Sheriff, who is MCCC’s Gateway to College program director. “Many are faced with incredibly difficult life circumstances, yet they consistently attend school, participate in a rigorous learning environment and meet the expectations of the program. My students prove that if given the opportunity to excel, they can and will rise to the occasion.”

Fifteen of MCCC’s students were recognized as Gateway Achievers by the Gateway to College National Network. Students include: Jose Ortiz Rivera from Hatboro-Horsham; Gustavo Ascencion from Norristown; Ne’Cole Casalena and Laura Krueger from Phoenixville; Brianna Gagliardi, Marcus Gordon and Anthony Romano from Pottsgrove; James Hanible from Upper Merion; Christopher Anderson, Shane Bowman, Jelani Crosby and William Dobnak from Upper Moreland; Shaquilla Anderson from WIB; and Meghan Benson and Emahnie Holmes from Wissahickon.

MCCC also recognized spring Gateway students for their achievements.

William Dobnak, Upper Moreland, and Laura Krueger, Phoenixville, were recognized as Foundation (first term) Students of the Semester. They also earned the highest GPA among MCCC Gateway students along with Jelani Crosby, Upper Moreland.

Marcus Gordon, Pottsgrove, and Rachel Voltz, Upper Merion, were recognized as Transitioned (second term through completion) Students of the Semester.

Perfect Attendance went to Shane Bowman, Upper Moreland; Anthony Romano, Pottsgrove; and Thomas Rosa, of Plymouth Meeting. Rosa was also recognized as Most Courageous, along with Paige Trump, Pottsgrove. Romano was recognized for Change of Heart, along with Jose Ortiz Rivera, Hatboro-Horsham.

Brianna Gagliardi, Pottsgrove, and Julian Richardson, WIB, earned Most Improved, while Amber Keyes, Norristown, and Faith Owens, Pottsgrove, earned Rising Star awards.

Additional awards included Perseverance, given to Nicole Snyder, Upper Moreland, and Dejah McMillan, Pottsgrove; and Most Determined, given to Gustavo Ascencion, Norristown, and Keara Hyden, Phoenixville.

Students begin the Gateway to College program with a Foundation semester, during which they take classes in reading, writing, math, and college skills as part of small learning communities. After successfully completing the Foundation term, participants transition into one of MCCC’s academic programs, earning college credits while completing high school requirements. Throughout the program, students are advised and mentored by Gateway resource specialists Lori Davidson and Esau Collins. They also actively engage in college and community service.

Partnering school districts include Boyertown, Cheltenham, Daniel Boone, Hatboro-Horsham, Norristown, Perkiomen Valley, Phoenixville, Pottsgrove, Pottstown, Souderton, Spring Ford, Upper Dublin, Upper Merion, Upper Moreland, Upper Perkiomen, Wissahickon and the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board.

To learn more about the Gateway to College Network, visit gatewaytocollege.org.

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