The Gateway to College program celebrated its fifth graduation on May 24, with its largest class yet of 30 graduates.
“Many of our students have failed in a high school setting, and here they are able to gain confidence and begin to believe in themselves,” said Jenna Glazer, Resource Specialist at Gateway to College. “If they can find their footing, they can really accomplish amazing things. I always tell them, ‘Your future is yours to make or break.’ These students will have a positive impact in the world.”
Students graduate from the program every semester, but they all walk together in the spring for their diplomas.
Teresa Watts, one of the featured speakers at graduation, spoke of what she had overcome to earn her degree.
“Everyone comes to Gateway for different reasons. Look around this room and everyone here has a different past and different struggles, but what we all have in common is we wanted more out of our situation,” she said. “For me, I'm here because I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that causes me to be in pain every day for the rest of my life. My illness stopped me from attending school, being with friends and doing anything that I enjoyed. I thought my life was over. I knew that I couldn't just sit around and let this pain ruin my future, so my mom helped me and here I am now. I have graduated from both high school and college, and I’m only 18.”
Ms. Watts, of Sutton, graduated from Gateway and from QCC with an associate’s degree in general studies. She is matriculating to Assumption College to study neuroscience.
“The program is becoming more well-known at QCC and in the region,” Ms. Glazer said. There are students from 19 different high schools in the program, she said they work with guidance counselors at the high schools to educate them about what the Gateway to College program offers.
The Gateway to College program is a national program for students who have dropped out of high school or who may not graduate. Through the program, students can obtain their high school diploma and earn college credits at the same time. Many graduates go on to finish associate degrees and transfer to four-year colleges.
The QCC program was awarded the Program Excellence Award by the Gateway to College National Network, recognizing outstanding data and outcomes for the 2015-16 school year. The program exceeded established benchmarks for four categories: first-term grades, one-year persistence, two-year persistence, and graduation rate. The program had the network high for two-year persistence and graduation rate, both of which were 75 percent.
About 19 students from the program this year are matriculating into the major of their choice at QCC.
These students will move on to four-year colleges: Teresa Watts, Assumption College; Nathan Manna, Holy Cross; Josh Sadri and Casey Tompkins, Hampshire College.
Graduate Alyssa Wilmot enlisted with the Marines. Patrick Morin and Kyle Rochon also enlisted with the military.
Eight Gateway to College alumni from previous years graduated this year from Quinsigamond Community College. They are: Katherine Barber, Noelle Haslam, Dylan Marengo, Susan Mayes, Steven Scichilone, Doug Swartz, Darien Ward-Andrade, and Teresa Watts. Four of these students will be matriculating to four-year colleges, and one is continuing at QCC for an additional associate’s degree.