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New High School Partnership Widens Recruiting Web

Program, First in Vermont, to Promote College Awareness Among Growing Alana, Refugee, East European Populations

By Jeff Wakefield Article published June 21, 2004

UVM has expanded its high school partnership initiative to include Burlington High School, the first Vermont school in the program. The university currently has partnership agreements in place with Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx and the High School for Environmental Studies in Manhattan. The partnerships are designed to provide a college awareness program for high schools — particularly targeted to students whose parents have not attended college — while fostering diversity here.

“Creating an increasingly diverse student body at UVM is a key goal of my administration,” said President Daniel Mark Fogel. “Living and learning with students from many different backgrounds enriches the college experience for everyone and is directly correlated to a high quality academic environment,” he said. “Since it was launched in 1999, the partnership program has been a key element in the dramatic increase we’ve seen in applications and enrollments of students of color at UVM.”

BHS was chosen for the partnership program because of its close proximity and because it has the largest population of students-of-color and recent immigrants in the state. During the just-ended school year, 14 percent of BHS students were African American, Latino/a, Native American or Asian American. The school also has a significant Bosnian population, at 4.5 percent. The number of ALANA and Bosnian students totals 206.

“When we were looking at expanding the partnership program, BHS was a logical choice,” said Don Honeman, director of admissions and financial aid. “The diversity of the student body was a key part of the decision. But being in Burlington, BHS is also in our own backyard and provided an opportunity to add a new element to the strong relationship we are building with the Burlington community.”

“The UVM partnership is a great addition to programs we’re currently offering, especially for our growing ALANA, immigrant, and refugee populations,” said Amy Mellencamp, principal of Burlington High School. “For students and families who don’t have a lot of knowledge about post-secondary education, the partnership provides an opportunity to learn first hand how to prepare for college, how to be looked at favorably by college admissions offices, and how financial aid works.”

UVM’s partnership programs — which target students beginning in the ninth grade — are designed to promote early college awareness, provide counseling to students and families about financial aid opportunities, offer individual counseling sessions to students, pair UVM faculty with high school faculty in their academic disciplines, and provide high school college counselors with realistic assessments of students’ readiness to attend UVM.

Since the first partnership was launched in 1999, the university has enrolled 69 ALANA students from partnership high schools, including 62 from Christopher Columbus, making it the largest feeder school during the period. Between 1999 and 2003, UVM’s ALANA population increased by 50 percent to 494 students.

Although such programs often benefit UVM, they are meant to be general in scope. “The partnerships are designed to educate students about college in a general way, not to focus strictly on UVM,” said Honeman. “One of the reasons we’ve been successful is that students can see that we’re sincere in wanting to provide them with a map as much as a point them to a destination.” P> The programs are also open to all students, he said. “The partnership programs are most beneficial to students whose parents haven’t been to college, and that is often the ALANA and immigrant populations,” Honeman said. “But white students from college-educated families are also welcome and have participated at the other high schools with whom we have partnership agreements.”

While the details and schedule of partnership activities have yet to be worked out, Honeman and Mellencamp said the following is planned for next year:

  • UVM’s admissions staff will meet with college counselors at Burlington High School and advise them of the college readiness of BHS students.
  • Admissions staff will conduct pre-college activities, such as application review workshops, that supplement other programs at the high school.
  • Financial aid staff will be available to conduct workshops on need-based aid for students and families.
  • UVM will work with its faculty to encourage connections to BHS faculty. BHS would especially like to encourage faculty-of-color to become a presence at the school.
  • UVM will explore ways to expand opportunities for its students to mentor BHS students.
  • UVM’s director of admissions will participate in a freshman and parent orientation program at BHS to outline the relationship between the institutions and the various elements of the partnership.