Getting a jumpstart on college

July 14, 2008 3:58:59 PM PDT
While many high schoolers are spending the summer at the beach or scooping ice cream, we learned about some young people in Chester who are getting a jumpstart on their futures. We learned about some young people in Chester who are getting a jumpstart on their futures.

Today at Widener University there was a different kind of summer school. Thirty Chester High School juniors and seniors are prepared for future college success.

Starting today, the students spend three weeks in college and SAT prep classes. Last week, seminars focused on leadership and presentation - skills Elvis Naylor says will help him be the first in his family to make it to college.

Elvis says, "They taught us principles, they taught us communication skills, public speaking, high self esteem, and to be enthusiastic."

In the fifth and final week, they'll be drilled on job hunting skills.

The program is trying to combat Chester's tough stats: 60-percent of the district's students grow up in single parent homes, 80-percent qualify for free lunches, and just last year only 14-percent of the senior class graduated.

Chester-Upland School District Superintendent Gregory Thornton tells us, "Many of them didn't think about college. Many of them didn't talk about college. Many of them thought college was out of reach."

In his first year, Superintendent Greg Thornton started a turnaround: this year fifty-percent of his seniors graduated.

This summer boot camp, done with Widener and an education non-profit, is about pushing them higher.

Junior Asia Carlton is now even more determined to go to college. Many of her friends wouldn't even think about it if they weren't here. Asia says, "They'd just be doing what everyone else is doing, trying to find a minimum wage job - not trying to put their best foot forward and do their best."

Dr. Thornton says that coming, for many of these kids college was just a fantasy. Now he's certain that for 100-percent of them, ending up at a place like Widener will be a reality.