SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 31, 2013

Column: College success leads to great expectations

Linda Saris
The Salem News

---- — ’Tis the season for graduations! Those interminable, yet joyous, celebrations that we at Salem CyberSpace get to both endure and enjoy each season. Yes, they are long and often tedious (would someone give these people lessons on how to make speeches engaging and brief?) but there is nothing in the world that can bring tears to my eyes more than when I see these long lines of young adults marching in to Sir Edward Elgar’s “March No. 1,” grinning from ear to ear and brimming with possibilities, hopes and dreams for the future. The march in as almost-grads and the march out as grads never lose their magic for me; nor does the picture-taking with grinning and proud family members and friends. One of our recent graduates said to me after his graduation, “My face hurts. I haven’t stopped grinning all day.”

For the youth of Salem CyberSpace, most are the first in their families to graduate from college. This makes the magic more potent. Parents who don’t speak English patiently sit through the endless speeches and long parade of graduates. Priceless is the word that comes to mind as I watch their faces during that one minute when their child’s name is called out and he or she walks across the stage to become the family’s first college graduate.

Every year we invite families, friends and the community to our Great Expectations event to support and applaud the high school and college graduates who are participants in our College Success Program. This event, which is both a celebration and a fundraiser, is hosted and run by the students. The emcee is a student and the speakers are students. The students are zealous hawkers of raffle tickets because they know that 100 percent of the funds raised will go to support the College Success programs for future students. It is pay it forward time, which our students take very seriously.

This year the number of high school and college graduates has reached an all time high of 24 students. At this event, each college graduate presents an award to someone who has made a positive impact on his or her academic life. These educators are coaches, teachers, professors, career advisors, advocates, counselors and out-of-school staff. These exceptional people provide needed social capital to our students. That capital comes as inspiration, role modeling, mentorship, connections, advice, employment or just a sympathetic ear.

Of our 10 college graduates, four graduated from North Shore Community College and all are moving on to Salem State University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Four graduated from Salem State University, one from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and one from Montserrat College of Art. Four of these students plan to go on to graduate school — some this year and some after working for a few years.

Since 2009, we have had 45 students who entered post-secondary education from our College Success program. Eighty-seven percent, or 39 students, have graduated or are still in school, 9 percent are on a leave of absence for a variety of reasons and are expected to return to school in a year and only 4 percent have dropped out and are unlikely to return to school soon. Those are the facts.

I would like to put a human face on our graduates by introducing you to Jacque. Jacque has been part of Salem Cyberspace since eighth grade and met with her CyberSpace advisor throughout her college years. This past week, she graduated from the Salem State University Bertolon School of Business, finishing her coursework in 31/2 years with a 3.3 GPA. During her entire time at school, she worked 25 hours per week. With that money, she covered her own expenses, helped two of her newly immigrated sisters through ESL classes at Salem State and helped her family pay bills. In high school and college Jacque has rarely been without a job. Since she finished school in December with a degree in marketing/graphic design, she has been looking for a job in her field. Jacque is one of those lucky people who has a passion for her work. Jacque’s hard work paid off. This month Jacque will start a job at a start-up mobile marketing company as a graphic designer while starting an evening master’s program. You go girl!

Congratulations to Jacque and her fellow graduates. Please support the programs at Salem CyberSpace by attending our Great Expectations fundraiser on June 11.

---

Linda Saris is the director of Salem CyberSpace, a program of North Shore Community Action Programs Inc. This column is one in a series from the Community Advisory Board for the Salem schools.

If you go Salem CyberSpace Great Expectations, Degrees of Success Tuesday, June 11, 6:30 p.m. Kernwood Country Club, Salem Tickets: $60, may be purchased online at www.salemcyberspace.org Call 978-740-6667 for more information 2013 Educator Award winners Mary Kate Adams, former ESL teacher, Salem High School Dr. Christine Andrews, associate professor of accounting, Salem State University Dr. Allison Berger, associate dean of students, University of Massachusetts Amherst Andre Daley, teen director of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem Dr. Stephen Immerman, president, Montserrat College of Art Jesenia Tejada, college success coordinator, Salem CyberSpace Dr. Joseph Modugno, professor of English, North Shore Community College Kelly Quinn, LICSW, Adolescent Consulting Services Inc. Linda Saris, director, Salem CyberSpace Christine Sullivan, director of Student Advocacy, Salem State University