When Angelina DeFeudis first entered North High School as a freshman, she never thought that attending college would be possible for her.
Nonetheless, the head guidance counselor asked her to try out a new experience by taking a course through the Early College Worcester program. She followed that advice, and the course completely changed DeFeudis’ educational trajectory. Early College gave her the opportunity to prove to herself that she could succeed at college.
The Early College Worcester program is a cooperative effort between Worcester State University, Quinsigamond Community College, and the Worcester Public Schools that helps high school students prepare for higher education while also giving them the opportunity to earn college credits at no cost.
“Guidance counselors at my school were very supportive and the staff at the colleges themselves are very on top of everything,” DeFeudis, now a graduating high school senior, said. “They reached out to ask how you are doing, to make sure you’re able to figure out where your classes were and how a syllabus works for college, and to help you find transportation. There was always a lot of support, and it was just an amazing experience.”
DeFeudis was among students who addressed U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, Cindy Marten, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and others at an Early College roundtable discussion at Worcester State University’s Sheehan Hall recently.
Also on the panel were President Barry M. Maloney, Regina Robinson, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, retiring Worcester School Superintendent Maureen Binienda, and current and former students of the program. Dr. Luis Pedraja, president of Quinsigamond Community College, participated via video.
Several state and local leaders who support the Early College program also attended the event, including Chris Gabrieli chairman of the board of the state Department of Higher Education, state Rep. David LeBoeuf, Worcester Mayor Joe Petty, and Susan Mailman, a member of the Worcester School Committee.
Many students who had participated in the program spoke of how the program changed their thoughts about their future career aspirations and attending college.
A panel participant who identified herself as Susan, a sophomore at University Park Campus Schoolsaid that although she has taken only one Early College course so far, she has already gained valuable insight into the college experience. “I was able to learn about what college courses I could take as a high school student and how I could better prepare myself for the experiences that I might encounter as I go through in my college years,” she said.
Susan’s Early College take-away represents one of the program’s major goals, according to President Maloney.
“Early College provides high school students with a comfort level and a sense that they belong on a college campus and that’s one of the big components of our program here,” Maloney said. “Whether they’re coming to the Quinsigamond Community College campus or to Worcester State, we want them to feel as if they belong and to interact with our students and faculty to give them the confidence that they can achieve their higher education aspirations.”
Rep. McGovern said that since access to college is more important today than ever before, successful programs like Early College should be supported and expanded.
“Today almost all high paying jobs require a post-secondary education,” he said. “We need to be doing more to ensure that all students, especially those who might be coming from underserved communities, have the support that they need to succeed in college.”
McGovern said the WSU/QCC Early College program is a national model “where students can start college early and finish strong, allowing them to contribute their talents to the workforce.”
The program offers college classes to Worcester Public School students and home-school students, preparing them for the rigors of higher education. “Students graduate with their credits, and they can take them with them to wherever their next stop is in their educational journey,” he said. “We have seen here in Worcester that Early College education programs help prepare students for a college education and help families avoid adding college debt.”
Deputy Secretary Marten said Massachusetts, and every state, needs Early College because of the proven gains it can provide for young people, especially those from underserved groups.
“The research is clear,” she said. “It shows that the median wages for Massachusetts full-time workers aged 25 and older is 67 percent higher for bachelor’s degree holders, and 28 percent higher for associate degree holders, than for high school graduates. That tells us that there is great power and great benefit when we blur the lines between high school and college, to ensure that more and more of our students are leaving school with the degrees and the credentials that are life changing for themselves, their families, and the wider community, and marketplace.”
Lyliana Correa, a Burncoat High School rising senior, said her experience in the Early College Worcester program led her to think about career possibilities she hadn’t considered before. “I’ve taken five (college) classes so far,” she said. “I’m really grateful that this program gives kids like me the opportunity to set higher goals for the future and to learn how to make them achievable.”
Photo captions, from top:
A student from the Early College Worcester program takes a group selfie at the roundtable event.
Three Early College Worcester participants who attended the roundtable (from left) Lyliana Correa, Burncoat Senior High School; Shamarah Ramirez ’25, Worcester State University; and Madeline Zafon-Whalen, Doherty Memorial High School.
Early College Worcester panelists and participants giving the program a big ‘thumbs up.’
President Maloney with Early College Worcester students.
Rep. McGovern addresses the group while President Maloney looks on.
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