Jan. 24, 2007
Through a new pilot program originating from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), the Lancaster Campus of HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College, has "adopted" McCaskey High School to help students have a better shot at attending college.

"We're honored that PHEAA chose HACC as a partner in this pilot program to encourage McCaskey High School students to continue their education," said Leanne Frech, senior administrative specialist, Office of Financial Aid Services, Lancaster Campus of HACC. The Lancaster Campus is one of twelve colleges and universities across the state selected for the new program.

"Part of PHEAA's mission is to create access to higher education for the residents of Pennsylvania, and it wanted to do this through the development of a program where an educational partner would adopt a public school," said Frech. "HACC was a logical partner, because any student, regardless of their background, can get a start here."

Nearly 600 McCaskey High School juniors were bused to HACC's Lancaster Campus today and will be again next Tuesday and Wednesday, January 30 and 31. Students will visit the college in groups based on McCaskey's Small Learning Communities (SLCs). The SLCs are organized by electives chosen so they are called: Arts and Humanities, Business & Technical, Public Leadership, Health Sciences, Media Studies and Communications, Honors/IB and McCaskey Institute of Technology.

During a half-day program, students will hear from community representatives - including a representative from Lancaster Mayor Gray's office, police, firemen, healthcare workers and others - related to their SLC. They will talk about their own careers, what careers are in demand and the college path required for those careers.

A PHEAA representative will discuss planning for higher education, including the Education-Planner.org tool, which guides students through the entire process from selecting a school and applying for admission to finding funds for tuition.

"This effort gave us funds to do what we normally could not do," said Frech. "PHEAA basically said, 'We're going to give you funding, here's an outline and who should be involved, and you write the book on this and determine what the program will be.'"

Students will tour the HACC campus in groups, visit some classrooms and get a feel for what college is like. "We're trying to break down some of those barriers and take away the fear that prevents many first generation college students like this from continuing their education," said Frech.

PHEAA officials are anxious to work with these students to make them aware of the paths to higher education and be sure they're not ruling out college because of finances. In addition to visits to postsecondary schools, PHEAA's plans include SAT preparation classes, mentoring, after-school study sessions, parent information nights and Education-Planner.org training classes.

"There's a lot of money available to these students," said Bruce Diefenderfer, regional director, PHEAA, the nation's leading nonprofit student aid organization. "Many students and their parents are not aware of this, and we're seeking different ways to get that information out into the public.

"We thought HACC was a natural partner, and we're looking forward to seeing the fruits of our efforts with this program. This will be the first in the state. Our six regional offices in the state will each conduct two pilot programs around the same idea."

McCaskey High School counselors are just as excited about the program. Phil Hostetter, counselor liaison and lead planner from the school district for this program, said, "We want to encourage nontraditional college-bound students to consider the option of higher education.

"This is a great way for two local institutions to work together to do their mutual jobs of encouraging students to continue to push themselves, to consider new options."

Next Step Information Sessions in March

The second part of the HACC/McCaskey High School Adopt-a-School program is an informational session in March for McCaskey High School juniors and seniors and their parents. One session is conducted in English on March 1 and the program conducted in Spanish on March 8, both from 6:30-9:00 p.m. These events are specifically for McCaskey juniors and seniors and their parents.

Each evening will include a motivational speaker and break-out sessions. Topics of discussion will include college options - trade/technical school, four-year college or university, two-year school or community college - as well as how to apply for admission and financial aid, and resources available through HACC and McCaskey High School.

All McCaskey seniors who attend this program and are eligible to apply to HACC will have the $35 application fee waived and receive their admission confirmation that evening.

Attending McCaskey students also can enter to win a variety of door prizes, including an i-Pod" but must be present to win.

Buses will run from various locations to HACC. This event is free, but registration is required by emailing ajcalderon@lancaster.k12.pa.us or calling 396-6810, ext. 3006. Registrants are asked to include their name, email address, daytime telephone number, number of attendees and which date they will be attending.

When they register, they will be given bus locations and pick-up times. The steak dinner will begin promptly at 6 p.m. in HACC's main building, cafeteria atrium, with the program following from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Reservations will be accepted through Feb. 22.

General information about HACC is available at www.HACC.edu. Information about PHEAA is available at www.PHEAA.org.

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