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

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Norristown Area High School Graduates Top Crop Of Scholars

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN — The Norristown Area High School Class of 2013, a group of 408 students who have collectively received the largest recorded amount of scholarship money in the school’s history, took the stage in front of friends and family Friday for the school’s 151st commencement.

This year’s graduates have been accepted to more than 202 universities across the country and have been awarded more than $12 million in scholarships, according to Norristown Area School District Superintendent Janet Samuels.

“This is an incredible class,” Samuels said after the commencement. “The scholarship dollars will allow the children to excel and do great things, and we’re so proud of that.”

The first salutatorian, Brett Harner, started things off.

Read more:

Pottstown Grad Too Good For Cap And Gown? Part II

In a follow-up to Evan Brandt’s excellent article about Pottstown High School senior Shawn Szydlowski, this Roy’s Rants exclusive uncovers another injustice against a Pottstown High School senior without the happy ending.

Like fellow classmate Shawn Szydlowski, Paige Patton is a graduating senior at Pottstown High School.  Paige Patton was a camp counselor at the Muscular Dystrophy Association Variety Club camp during June of 2009.  However, unlike Shawn Szydlowski, Paige Patton tried working with the camp rather than the school district to resolve the scheduling conflicts between school and camp activities.

PHS Graduation and Baccalaureate rehearsals were June 10th and June 11th with graduation scheduled for June 14th.  Camp orientation was scheduled for June 10th and 11th with camp running the week of June 12th through June 19th at the Variety Club’s Worcester Township site.

Graduating seniors were told if they missed practice, they could not walk for graduation.  Paige took this warning seriously so she and her family tried contacting the MDA Camp Coordinator to work something out but their calls were not returned.  Paige subsequently received a letter from the MDA stating her services as a camp counselor were not needed this year.

Paige formed a special bond with her camper last year.  The camper and her family specifically requested Paige again for this year!  Paige will also miss the camp graduation of another friend she made last summer because she is not allowed to attend camp.

Paige’s involvement with the MDA did not end with camp.  Paige and her family made four trips from Pottstown to the MDA Broomall Office and helped stuff 2500 fundraising envelopes.  Paige also held her own fundraiser at PHS.  She received permission to miss class so she could sit in the hall and sell shamrocks for $1.00.  Two gift baskets were made up and raffled off based on the shamrock sales.  For each shamrock purchase, the buyer received a ticket(s) that were entered into a raffle.  The winners received the gift baskets.  Paige and her family then made another trip to the MDA’s Broomall office to drop off the $125.00 she raised.

Paige will be attending Montgomery County Community College, West Campus this fall where she will begin studying to become a special education teacher.  The experience working with Muscular Dystrophy campers is related to what she will be studying in college.  It is a shame that someone who worked so hard to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association had to make a choice between graduation and volunteering as a camp counselor.  Furthermore, to be dismissed without even a return phone call and a curt letter is shameful.

I would suspect people are not lining up to be camp counselors for disabled children.  The school district and the camp need to be more flexible when working with students who are trying to give of themselves to help others.  No student should have to make the choice these two young women were faced with.  Sadly, Paige’s story does not have the happy ending that Shawn’s does.

Is this the kind of lesson we want to teach our young people?  If we try and “pay it forward” we get slapped in the face.  At the very least this young lady deserves an apology for the treatment she received from the camp and from the school district for making her follow their stringent rules.  The inflexibility of these two entities cost Paige the opportunity to be a camp counselor and denied that disabled camper the chance to spend another week with someone she and her family specifically requested.

Shame, shame, shame.