The Hippo


May 26, 2020








A student in the Access Academy program at Saint Anselm College. Courtesy photo.

High-schoolers at college
After-school college, career prep program expands

By Ryan Lessard

 Access Academy, a program that provides underserved Manchester high school students college and career readiness courses at Saint Anselm College, has doubled in size over the past year thanks to a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that was matched entirely by the college.

What’s new
Dan Forbes, the director of the Meelia Center for Community Engagement at Saint Anselm, which organizes the Access Academy program, said the money from the latest grant has made it possible to fund the creation of new programs and pay the stipends for the faculty and student teachers who design and deliver the courses. 
“The big shift happened this year when we received a fairly substantial National Endowment for the Humanities Grant,” Forbes said.
He said it takes about $8,000 to create a new course, and less than that to deliver it.
In total the program now offers 10 courses at the campus, plus an 11th course, Public Speaking, taught at the Sununu Youth Services Center. More than 15 courses will be created over the next three years with the NEH funds. Plus, they are applying for more grants from the National Science Foundation to beef up their STEM class offerings.
There are about 90 students signed up for the semester, which started Jan. 30. 
Hannah Morley, the program coordinator for Meelia programs, said there is no formal selection process, but they work with extended learning opportunity coordinators in the schools to identify kids who qualify and get them to fill out applications.
“Another evolution is we do now serve all four high schools in Manchester. We bus them from school to campus [after school]. They attend the classes, then we bring them all together and then feed them [and] send them home,” Forbes said.
The courses are held every Monday and Tuesday. 
Monday courses include Career and College Exploration, Computer Literacy, Environmental Studies, SAT prep and a class about iconic photographs from history. Every Tuesday, students can choose from a College Admissions class, a Human Rights class, Illustration, Storytelling and French Food and Literature.
Some of the courses are for any high school grade, while the more college-prep classes are for higher grade levels.
In previous semesters, college students and faculty would co-teach. But some of those same students have begun to teach on their own.
And some of the new course offerings have been made possible by faculty members who are interested in helping out, such as in the case of the new SAT prep course.
Also starting this year is a program that brings Access resources into the high schools. So far, that means some of the college students helping out high school students with writing their college essays, FAFSA applications and so forth.
“If that is a bigger piece of what we do in the future, that could be a game-changer as well,” Forbes said.
They’ve also begun some outreach efforts to get middle school students interested in the program. The did this last fall, when they bused in middle schoolers to watch end-of-semester presentations by Access students. The hope is that these kids will grow excited about the possibility of going to college and maybe participating in Access Academy themselves in the future.
The program began with 20 students from just West High School and Central High School in 2010 with small grants (under $10,000) from New Hampshire Humanities and some additional donations from Rich Meelia, a philanthropist and the Meelia Center’s namesake.
The initial grants targeted new Americans so the program was offered primarily to immigrant and refugee children. It has since expanded to other underrepresented populations facing barriers to higher education such as low-income kids and first-generation prospective college students. 

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